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The Seventeen Bright Stars


A.L. Lloyd and chorus sang this song about the Spithead mutiny on the LP The Valiant Sailor: Songs and Ballads of Nelson's Navy. It was also included in the French compilation album Chants de Marins IV: Ballads, Complaintes et Shanties des Matelots Anglais. Roy Palmer commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

Mutinies were by no means uncommon in the old navy, the revolt against Bligh on the “Bounty” was only one of the more spectacular. In April 1797, the seventeen ships of the Channel Fleet refused Admiral Bridport's order to sail from Spithead, an anchorage near Portsmouth, and sent delegates to a meeting abord the flagship, “Queen Charlotte”. The men's grievances were lack of shore leave, low pay (it had been frozen at 19 shillings a month gross, for about 150 years) and poor victualling. The seamen forcibly put a number of tyrannical officers on the beach. Admiral Lord Howe, wo was well-liked by the lower deck, negotiated a free pardon for all the mutineers and an increase in pay to a shilling a day. To this extent the mutiny was successful, and therefore unique. Apart from Bridport and Howe, the people mentioned in the song are Pitt, the Prime Minister, and Dundas, Treasurer of the Navy.


Come all you bold Britons, to the sea do belong,
Of the seventeen bright stars I will sing you a song.
On the fifteenth of April at Spithead we lay;
Lord Britport he hove out a signal to weigh,
But one and all we refused to obey.

Chorus (after each verse):
Ri lori liddle la liddle,
La diddle la diddle ay day

The reason unto you I now will relate:
We resolved to refuse the purser's short weight.
Our humble petition to Lord Howe we sent,
That he to the Admirality write to present
Our provisions and wages that they might augment.

Then each son of Neptune took oath without dread,
Till redress was obtained, not to sail from Spithead.
Two tars from each ship of the line did appear
On board the “Queen Charlotte” without dread or fear,
While the ships manned their yards with a thundering loud cheer.

Billy Pitt and then Dundas soon heard of the news:
They fell in a rage and the tars did abuse.
They sent for Lord Spencer and to him did say:
“For Portsmouth, my lord, and make no delay,
For the mutinous tars all refuse to obey.”

Lord Spencer to us then these words did express:
“Your grievance, my lads, it shall soon find redress.
you'll have full provisions and a shilling a day.”
We trusted their honour, and our anchors did weigh,
But the wind coming west, at St Heles we lay.

When we found from their promise they meant for to run,
We resolved for to force them before we had done.
When the signal was made to the sea to repair,
We then did refuse with another loud cheer,
Which made our proud rulers to quake and to fear.

At length from our king brave Lord Howe he was sent,
To redress our grievance to our full intent.
We received the old hero with joy as our friend,
and, the act being passed, we will cheerfully sing,
Confusion to France, boys, and long live our king.

Here's a health to Lord Howe in a full flowing glass,
Confusion to Pitt and likewise to Dundas.
The seventeen bright stars in a bumper shall roar,
Their praises shall sound out from shore to shore,
They'll ne'er be forgot until England's no more.