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> Maddy Prior > Songs > Liverpool Judies

Liverpool Judies / Row, Bullies, Row

[ Roud 928 ; Ballad Index Doe106 ; DT LIVJUDY , LIVJUDY2 ; Mudcat 62354 ; trad.]

Ewan MacColl sang Row, Bullies, Row in 1954/5 on one of the first Topic LPs, his and A.L. Lloyd’s album The Singing Sailor. This track was reissued lots of times, in 1957 as the title track of their album Row Bullies Row, on their French Le Chante du Monde album Chants de Marins Anglais No 1, and on their Australian Wattle album Shanties & Fo’c’sle Songs, in 1958 on their American Stinson LP Haul on the Bowlin’, and in 2004 on the Highpoint anthology Sailors’ Songs & Sea Shanties. He recorded this song for a second time in 1957 on his and A.L. Lloyd’s Tradition Records album Blow Boys Blow. A.L. Lloyd commented in the last album’s sleeve notes:

The song of the Liverpool seaman who sailed to San Francisco with the intention of staying there, but who got himself shanghaied back to Merseyside again, was a favourite rousing forebitter, sometimes used at capstan work when the spokes were spinning easy. The sense of the refrain may not be clear to landsmen. When the ship was sailing along at a fast speed, the sailors would say: “The girls have got hold of the tow-rope today.”

Martin Carthy sang Row Bullies Row on the Hullabaloo ABC Television programme broadcast on 23 November 1963.

Ian Campbell and a chorus of Bob Davenport, Louis Killen, Redd Sullivan and Cyril Tawney sang Row Bullies Row in 1964 on the Topic theme album of sea songs and shanties, Farewell Nancy.

The Black Country Three sang Row Bullies Row in 1966 on their eponymous Transatlantic album The Black Country Three.

Louis Killen sang Row, Bullies, Row in 1970 on his South Street Seaport Museum album 50 South to 50 South: Louis Killen sings on the Cape Horn Road. He also sang it with the Out-of-Shape Chanteymen as Liverpool Judies in 1995 on his CD Sailors, Ships & Chanteys. He commented in the latter’s liner notes:

One of two versions which have the same chorus—the other starts in San Francisco. This is the warning to watch for the ‘sharks’ ashore. Often used as a capstan chantey according to Stan Hugill (and he should know, having sailed before the mast and been a chanteyman), but most of the other collectors refer to it as a fo’c’s’le ballad.

Danny Spooner sang Liverpool Judies on his 1988 album We’ll Either Bend or Break ’Er.

Dan Milner with a chorus of Louis Killen and Mick Moloney sang Row, Bullies, Row on his 1998 Folk-Legacy album Irish Ballads & Songs of the Sea.

Maddy Prior & the Girls (Rose Kemp and Abbie Lathe) sang Liverpool Judies in 2002 on their CD Bib & Tuck. This track was also included in 2005 on Maddy Prior’s anthology Collections. The original album’s liner notes commented:

And so, having completed the round-trip, either on the clipper ships from America, or the whole fifteen months with a slaver, the sailors looked for some well-earned R&R, and although press gangs were phased out after the Napoleonic wars, there were always people prepared to employ any means to recruit sailors for these unpopular routes. And so the cycle began again.

Mick Groves sang Row Bullies Row on his 2004 album of songs of Ewan MacColl, Fellow Journeyman.

The Exmouth Shanty Man sang Row Bullies Row in 2022 on their WildGoose album Tall Ships and Tavern Tales. They noted:

A very favourite capstan song in Liverpool ships, it is of Irish origin and probably dates from the 1840s, since it was popular in the Western Ocean packets. It might also have been a whalers’ rowing song.


Louis Killen sings Liverpool Judies

When I was a young man I sailed like the best
On a Liverpool packet bound out for the west.
We anchored one day in the harbour of Cork
Then we were bound for the port of New York.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
[Singing / And it’s] row, row bullies row,
Them Liverpool Judies have got us in tow.

For forty-two days we were hungry and sore,
For the winds was agin us and the gales they did roar.
But off Battery Point we anchored at last
With the jib-boom hove in and our canvas all fast.

The boarding-house masters was off in a trice,
Offering us all kinds of things that were nice.
One fat old crimp took a likin’ to me,
Says he, “You’re a fool, lad, to follow the sea.”

Says he, “There’s a job as is waiting for you
With lashings of liquor and bugger-all to do.”
Says he, “What d’ye say, lad, won’t you jump her too?”
Says I, “You old bastard, I’m damned if I do.”

But the best of intentions they never goes far,
After forty-two days at the door of a bar
I tossed off my liquor and what do you think?
The rotten old bastard put drugs in my drink!

The next I remembers I woke in the morn’,
On a three skys’l yarder bound south round the Horn,
With an old set of oilskins and two pair of socks,
A bloody thick head and a sea-chest that rocks.

Now all you young sailors, take a warning by me,
Keep a watch on your drinks when the liquor is free!
And pay no attention to runner or whore
Or your head will be thick and your throat will be sore.

Danny Spooner sings Liverpool Judies

From Liverpool to Frisco a-roving I went
To live in that country it was my intent;
But drinking strong liquor like other damned fools,
I soon got transported back to Liverpool.

Chorus (after each verse):
And it’s row, row bullies row,
Them Liverpool judies has got us in tow.

I joined the ‘Alaska’ lying out in the bay,
A-waiting a fair wind to get under way.
Her crew was all weary, so sick and so sore,
They’d had too much liquor and they’d had too much whore.

Then up stepped the mate in a hell of a stew,
Looking for work for the sailors to do.
“It’s foretops’l halyards!” he loudly do roar,
“And lay aloft Paddy you son of an whore!”

One night off Cape Horn I shall never forget,
And oftimes I sighs when I thinks of it yet;
She were making twelve knots wi’ her main skys’l set
And diving bows under with the whole of us wet.

We was hauling and pumping the whole bloody way,
By Jesus on that trip we sure earned our pay,
The mate was a cow-son, the bosun was worse,
With brass knuckles they added some weight to a curse.

Here’s a health to Captain Samuels wherever he be,
A friend to a sailor on land or on sea,
But as the first mate when his life do pass,
I hope that he hangs from the yard by his brass.