> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > The Trim-Rig Ducksie
> Martin Carthy > Songs > Ramblin' Sailor
> Tony Rose > Songs > Rambling Sailor
> Louis Killen > Songs > The Trim-Rigged Doxy

The Rambling Sailor / The Trim-Rigged Doxy

[ Roud 1901 ; Laws K41 ; Ballad Index LK41 ; Mudcat 108324 ; trad.]

The Rambling Sailor/Soldier (Roud 518) is a widely spread song in which a roving ex-sailor makes a living of seducing women. My Ducksie Has Fled or Gold Watch (Roud 1901) is the opposite where an amorous sailor is betrayed by a lady of negotiable affection; she robs him of his valuables while he is asleep and leaves him with an STD.

It was probably A.L. Lloyd who took the first-and-a-half verses of The Rambling Sailor and put them in front of My Ducksie Has Fled. All other recordings shown here seem to come from his initial version; and they are usually called either The Rambling Sailor or The Trim-Rigged Doxy.

A.L. Lloyd sang The Trim-Rig Ducksie in 1962 on his and Ewan MacColl's album A Sailor's Garland. This track was also included in 2006 on Fellside's 40th anniversary anthology The Journey Continues. Lloyd noted on the original album:

This wry and saucy song is also known as The Rambling Sailor. In fact it began life as The Rambling Soldier, and as such was a favourite song with fairground singers in the 18th century. In 1818, perhaps capitalising on the wave of popularity enjoyed by British tars in the years following Trafalgar, the ballad-sheet printer James Catnach (father of the more famous Jemmy) published an altered version of the song, with the saucy soldier now become a sailor. The song's unbuttoned text seems to have worried the folk song collectors. The Rev. Baring-Gould, H.E.D. Hammond and Cecil Sharp all obtained several versions of it, but found its wit and point “not very choice”, and suppressed most of the text as unfit for polite ears. Less polite country singers remain devoted to the song, whose swinging mixolydian melody is also that of a West Country hornpipe.

Martin Carthy sang Ramblin' Sailor in 1966 on his Second Album. He noted:

Also known as Young Johnson, this is a typical story of a sailor home from a long voyage and a rather frisky whore who robs him of all his possession, leaving him with a physical reminder of the exchange; or, as Measure for Measure puts it, “Impiety makes a feast of him.”

Tony Rose sang Rambling Sailor with very similar verses at the Cheltenham Folk Club in 1967. This recording was included in his posthumous CD Exe.

Louis Killen sang this as The Trim-Rigged Doxy in 1970 on the South Street Seaport Museum's album 50 South to 50 South and in 1995 on his CD Sailors, Ships & Chanteys. He commented in the first album's liner notes:

This forebitter was originally a landsman's song called The Rambling Soldier which told the tale of a young man who had a commission from the king to wander the country seducing young ladies. In the sailor's version he gets his comeuppance with a dose of the dreaded social disease.

The Albion Country Band, with Royston Wood and Steve Ashley on vocals, sang Rambling Sailor at the BBC “Top Gear” show recorded on 19 June 1972 and broadcast on 4 July 1972. This recording was included in 1995 on the Ashley Hutchings anthology The Guv'nor Vol. 2.

The Tees-side Fettlers sang The Rambling Sailor in 1974 on their Traditional Sound Recordings album Ring of Iron. They noted:

Mac [Stewart McFarlane] says he learned this one when he was young and thin (which takes us back a bit) from Martin Carthy. It has stood the test of time as far as the group's concerned and the theme fits in nicely with the instrumentals which follow it here—Drowsie Maggie & Dingle Regatta.

Tony Hall sang The Trim-Rig Doxie in 1977 on his Free Reed album Fieldvole Music.

Barry Lister sang The Trim-Rigged Doxy in 2006 on his WildGoose CD Ghosts & Greasepaint. He noted:

Again, a long-time favourite of mine, though I can’t remember where I got it. Many years ago I sang it for Alan Dilly of Great Western Morris to dance to in the Sidmouth Jig Competition. He didn’t win.

Pete Wood sang The Rambling Sailor on his 2014 CD Young Edwin. He noted:

A classic theme of a sailor being robbed by “a lady of the night”. It has a particularly jaunty tune, a variant of an Irish hornpipe called The Chanter's Tune.

Steve Turner sang The Rambling Sailor on his 2018 Tradition Bearers CD Late Cut. He noted:

One of the most famous stories in the folk song tradition is of Jack the sailor coming home from the sea, blowing all his wages. Usually in a tavern on Radcliffe Highway in London, or the American equivalent, the Bowery, being robbed of his wages and clothes by the “trim rigged doxy” who he meets along the way and ending up the following morning, penniless, scantily clad and with a horrible disease! I must like this story as at the last count this is the third version of it that I've recorded over the years!

Lyrics

Martin Carthy sings Ramblin' SailorTony Rose sings Rambling Sailor

Oh, I am a sailor brisk and bold,
Long time I've sailed the ocean.
Oh, I've fought for king and the country too,
For honour and promotion.
So now, my brother shipmates, I bid you all adieu,
No more will I go to sea with you;
But I'll ramble the country through and through
And I'll be a rambling sailor.

I am a sailor brisk and bold,
Long time I've sailed the ocean.
And I've fought for my king and the country too,
For honour and promotion.
But now, my brother shipmates, I bid you all adieu,
No more will I go to sea with you;
But I'll ramble the country through and through
And I'll be a rambling sailor.

Oh, it's off to a village then I went
Where I saw lassies plenty;
Oh, I boldly stepped up to one of them
To court her for her beauty.
Oh, her cheeks, they were like the rubies red;
She'd a feathered bonnet a-covering her head.
Oh, I put the hard word on her but she said she was a maid,
The saucy little trim-rigged doxy.

Now it's off to the village then I went
Where I saw the lassies plenty;
And I boldly stepped up to one of them
To court her for her beauty.
Oh, her cheeks, they were like the roses red;
She'd a fine feathered bonnet all on her head.
I put the hard word on her but she said she was a maid,
The saucy little trim-rigged doxy.

“Oh, I can't and I won't go along with you,
You saucy rambling sailor.
Oh, my parents, they would never agree
For I'm promised to a tailor.”
But I was hot shot eager to rifle her charms.
“A guinea,” says I, “for a roll in your arms.”
The deal was done and upstairs we went,
Myself and the trim-rigged doxy.

“Oh, I can't and I shan't and I won't go with you,
You saucy rambling sailor.
For my parents they would never agree
For I'm promised to a tailor.”
But I was hot shot eager to rifle her charms.
“A guinea,” says I, “for a roll in your arms.”
The deal was done and upstairs we went,
Myself and the trim-rigged doxy.

Oh, it was haul on the bowline, let your stays'ls fall,
We was yardarm to yardarm bumpin'.
My shot locker empty, asleep I fell
And then she fell into robbin';
Oh, she robbed all my pockets of everything I had,
She even stole my new boots from underneath the bed,
And she even stole my gold watch from underneath my head,
The saucy little trim-rigged doxy.

Well it's haul on the bowline, let the stays'ls fall,
We was yardarm to yardarm bobbin'.
And my shot locker empty, asleep I fell
And soon she fell to robbin';
Now she robbed all my pockets of everything I had,
She even stole my new boots from underneath the bed,
And she even stole my gold watch from underneath my head,
The saucy little trim-rigged doxy.

And it's when I awoke in the morning bright,
Oh, I started to roar like thunder.
My gold watch and my money too
She bore away for plunder.
But it wasn't for my watch nor my money too,
For them I don't value but I tell you true,
I think her little fire-bucket burned my bobstay through,
That saucy little trim-rigged doxy.

But it's when I awoke in the morning bright
I started to roar like thunder.
For my gold watch and my money too
She bore away for plunder.
Now it wasn't for my watch, and nor my money too,
For them I don't value but I tell you true,
I think her little fire-bucket burned my bobstay through,
The saucy little trim-rigged doxy.

Louis Killen sings The Trim-Rigged Doxy

I am a sailor brisk and bold
Long time I've sailed the ocean,
And if you want to know me name
Me name it is Jim Johnson.
Now fellow shipmates, I'll bid you adieu
No more will I rove the world with you
But I'll wander the country through and through
And I'll be a rambling sailor.

Now as I walked out one fine day
Down by the London River
A handsome girl I chanced to spy
We cruised along together
Her cheeks they were like the roses red
She'd a feathery bonnet all on her head
I put the hardwood on her but she said she was a maid
The pretty little trim-rigged doxy!

“Now I can't and I shan't and I won't go with you
You saucy rambling sailor.
Why, me parents they would not agree
I'm promised to a tailor.”
But I was hot-shot eager to rifle her charms
“A guinea,” says I, “for a roll in your arms.”
The deal it was done, and we went upstairs
Meself and the trim-rigged doxy.

It was haul out the bow and let the stays'ls fall
And yardarm to yardarm bobbin'
Oh, me shot all gone, asleep I falls
And soon she turned to robbin'.
She robbed me pockets of all I had
And she took me boots from the end of the bed
Why, she even took a gold watch out from underneath me head
The saucy little trim-rigged doxy.

And when I'd found that she was gone
I started to roar like thunder.
Oh, me gold watch and me money too
She'd bore them away for plunder.
But it ain't for me watch nor me money too
For them I don't value; for I tell you true
I fear her little fire-bucket burned me bobstay through.
The saucy little trim-rigged doxy.

Acknowledgements

Garry Gillard transcribed Martin Carthy's singing, with thanks to Wolfgang Hell and Neil Spurgeon.