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Wild Goose Shanty

[ Roud 328 ; Ballad Index Doe032 ; trad.]

A.L. Lloyd sang the Wild Goose Shanty in 1957 on his and Ewan MacColl's Tradition Records LP Blow Boys Blow (reissued in 1967 in the UK by Transatlantic Records). He commented in the sleeve notes:

One of the great halyard shanties, seemingly better-known in English ships than American ones, though some versions of it have become crossed with the American song called Huckleberry Hunting. From the graceful movement of its melody it is possible that this is an older shanty than most. Perhaps it evolved out of some long-lost lyrical song.

He also sang The Wild Goose Shanty live at the Top Lock Folk Club, Runcorn, on November 5, 1972. This concert was published in 2010 on the Fellside CD An Evening with A.L. Lloyd.

Louis Killen sang The Wild Goose in 1964 on the anthology Farewell Nancy: Sea Songs and Shanties, later reissued with bonus tracks as the CD Blow the Man Down. A.L. Lloyd commented in the sleeve notes:

Songbook editors like to classify shanties according to the task they were supposed to accompany; short drag, halyard, windlass, pump. But this one, like many others was used for any job. Sometimes it starts: “I'm the shanty man of the Wild Goose nation”, perhaps a reference to Ireland (‘wild geese’ is a name for 17th Century Irish patriots who fled their country to take service with foreign kings). This tune was collected by W. Roy Mackenzie who got it from a seaman settled in Nova Scotia.

Louis Killen recorded The Wild Goose Nation again in 1995 for his CD Sailors, Ships & Chanteys.

White Hart sang Wildgoose as part of their shanty set on their 1979 Traditional Sound album In Search of Reward.

Johnny Collins with Dave Webber and Pete Watkinson sang The Wild Goose in 1996 on their CD Shanties & Songs of the Sea.

Coope Boyes & Simpson sang Wild Goose Shanty in 1998 on their CD Hindsight.

Kate Rusby sang The Wild Goose in 1999 on her CD Sleepless, in a live recording in the same year on her EP Cowsong, in 2002 on her CD 10, in 2004 on a session track on her DVD Live from Leeds, and in 2012 on her anniversary album Twenty.

Barbara Brown and chorus sang Huckleberry Hunting (Hilo, Me Ranzo Ray) in 2002 on the CD of songs by Watchet sailor John Short collected by Cecil Sharp, Short Sharp Shanties Vol. 2. The accompanying notes said:

Sharp recorded one and a half verses from Short. Whall, who also gave those two verses, comments that there were a ‘regulation first three verses’ before the shantyman went off at his own tangent. Hugill comments that: “it appears to have been used for every shipboard job with perhaps the exception of tacks and sheets, and hand over hand! Most forms indicate negro origin.” It is also worth quoting Colcord—“The shanty appears in many guises, identified only by the air and the chorus, which varied little. Bullen’s version is What did you give for your fine leg of mutton; while Terry calls it The Wild Goose shanty.”

We have followed Whall here but, of course, included all the Short text available. Short’s tune can sound peculiar—and for some people even feel uncomfortable—as it does not fit the ‘normal’ pattern of scales and modes we are used to in Anglo/American traditional music. It uses a tritone or ‘the devil’s interval’ as it became known—we’ve grown to quite like it although Jeff Warner fears he’ll be drummed out of the Banjo Players' Union of America for blatant use of an augmented fourth!

The Demon Barbers sang Ranzo (Wild Goose Shanty) in 2015 on their CD Disco at the Tavern.

The Norfolk Broads sang Wild Goose on their 2017 CD In the Valley of the Flowers.

Lyrics

A.L. Lloyd sings The Wild Goose Shanty

Did you ever see a wild goose sailing on the ocean?
    Ranzo, Ranzo, Away-hey!
They're just like them young girls when they take the notion.
    Ranzo, Ranzo, Away-hey!

I met a young woman a-walking by the river
And in every step she made her topsails quiver.

I sleuthed up to her, says, “How are you, my darling?”
She says, "None the better for seeing you this morning.”

(repeat first verse)

Louis Killen sings The Wild Goose

Did you ever see a wild goose sailing o'er the ocean?
    Ranzo, Ranzo, Way-hey!
They're just like them pretty girls when they gets the notion.
    Ranzo, Ranzo, Way-hey!

The other morning I was walking by the river
When I saw a young girl walking with her topsails all a-quiver.

I said, “Pretty fair maid, and how are you this morning?”
She said, “None the better for the seeing of you.”

(repeat first verse)

Links

There is some discussion about Lloyd's verses in the Mudcat Café thread Folklore: ‘topsails all a quiver’ about this couplet which seems to be an invention of Lloyd.