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The Dreadnought

[ Roud 924 ; Laws D13 ; Henry H194 ; Ballad Index LD13 ; trad.]

The version of this song in Sam Henry's Songs of the People is called The Zared and dated 30 July 1927. Joanna C. Colcord says in Songs of American Sailormen (1938) that The Dreadnought's tune is “a variant of an old English naval song, The Flash Frigate, or La Pique.” Both the Henry and the Colcord versions do not yet have the Derry Down chorus.

Ewan MacColl sang The Dreadnought on his, A.L. Lloyd and Harry H. Corbett's 1954/5 Topic album The Singing Sailor. This track was also included on their albums Row Bullies Row (1957), Chants de Marins Anglais No 1 (probably 1957), Singing Sailors (1957), Off to Sea Once More (1958), and The Coast of Peru (1963) and on the anthologies Sea Songs and Shanties (Topic Sampler No 7, 1971), Chants de Marins IV (1984) and Sailors' Songs & Sea Shanties (2004). The last album's booklet noted:

There have been few songs made to celebrate the qualities of particular ships but The Dreadnought is an exception. It pays homage to the famous Western Ocean packet built at Maryport, Mass, in 1853. Though not the fastest of her class, she could stand any amount of hard driving in hard weather and once ran from Rock Light to Sandy Hook in 19 days.

A recording of Barbara Dickson singing The Dreadnought live in 1969-73 was included in 2013 on her folk club album B4 Seventy-Four.

Tom Sullivan sang The Dreadnought on the 2004 Folkways anthology Classic Maritime Music.

The Belgian band Kadril sang The Dreadnought on their 2005 album De Andere Kust.

Louis Killen sang The Dreadnought in 1970 on his South Street Seaport Museum album of songs of the Cape Horn Road, 50 South to 50 South, in 1973 on the National Geographic Society anthology Songs & Sounds of the Sea, and in 1995 on his CD Sailors, Ships & Chanteys. The last recording was also included in 2004 on the Lancaster Maritime Festival anthology Beware of the Press-Gang!!. He commented in his album's notes:

Launched in 1853, this packet was renowned for its fast passages between Liverpool and New York under the command of Sam Samuels. Captain Samuels was a colourful character who published an autobiography extolling his exploits as a bully skipper.

The “derry down” chorus is also used in the song The Old Bachelor (Roud 7162, G/D 7:1390) which was collected by Gavin Greig from John Quirrie in ca 1906.

Lyrics

Ewan MacColl sings The Dreadnought

There is a flash packet, flash packet of fame
She hails from New York and the Dreadnought's her name
She's bound to the westward where stormy winds blow
Bound away in the Dreadnought, to the westward we'll go.

Chorus (after each verse):
Derry down, down, down derry down

Now, the Dreadnought she lies in the river Mersey
Awaiting the tugboat to take her to sea
Out around the Rock Light where the salt tides do flow
Bound away to the westward, in the Dreadnought we'll go

Now, the Dreadnought's a-howling down the wild Irish Sea
Her passengers merry, with hearts full of glee
As sailors like lions walk the decks to and fro
She's the Liverpool packet, O Lord, let her go!

Now, the Dreadnought's a-sailing the Atlantic so wide
Where the high roaring seas roll along her black sides
With her sails tightly set for the Red Cross to show
She's the Liverpool packet, O Lord, let her go!

Now, a health to the Dreadnought, and all her brave crew
To bold Captain Samuels, his officers, too
Talk about your flash packets, Swallowtail and Black Ball
The Dreadnaught's the flier that outsails them all

Louis Killen sings The Dreadnought

There's a saucy wild packet, a packet of fame;
and she hails from New York, and the Dreadnought's her name;
Bound away to the westward where the wild winds do blow;
Bound away to the westward and the Dreadnought will go,

Chorus (after each verse):
Derry down, down, down derry down

O, the Dreadnought's a-waiting in the river Mersey
For the Independence to tow her to sea;
To round that Rock Light where the wild winds does blow,
She's the Liverpool packet, O Lord, let her go!

And the Dreadnought's a-sailing down the wild Irish Sea
Her passengers merry, with hearts full of glee
As sailors like lions walk the decks to and fro
She's the Liverpool packet, O Lord, let her go!

The Dreadnought's a-sailing the Atlantic so wide
With the high roaring seas roll along her black sides
With her sails tautly set for the Red Cross to show
Bound away to the westward, in the Dreadnought we'll go.

And the Dreadnought's arrived in New York once more,
So go ashore, shipmates, to the girls you adore.
With your wives and your sweethearts, how merry you'll be,
Drink a health to the Dreadnought, wherever she may be.

Here's a health to the Dreadnought and all of her crew,
And the bold Captain Samuels and his officers, too.
You just can keep your flash packets, Swallowtail and Black Ball
The Dreadnaught's the flier that can lick them all.

Links

Shipping Wonders of the World: The Wild Boat in the Atlantic
Lars Bruzelius' page on Dreadnought

See also the Mudcat Café thread Tune Req: Derry Down.