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The Jolly Roving Tar

[ Roud 913 ; Laws O27 ; Henry H670 ; Ballad Index LO27 ; Bodleian Roud 913 ; Edward Green ‘Ned’ Harrigan]

Peter Bellamy sang The Jolly Roving Tar in 1969 on his second LP, Fair England's Shore. This is one of the two songs on the album where he accompanied himself on melodeon. He commented in the album's sleeve notes:

I found two verses of The Jolly Roving Tar deep in my memory, with no idea how they got there. There seem to be several versions around, two of them being in Modern Street Ballads and in the Kidson collection, but the verses I added to make a fuller song come from an American version which was collected by a dear and respected friend, American folklorist Frank Warner.

John Bowden and Sheafknot sang Jolly Roving Tar in 2015 on Vic Shepherd and John Bowden's Hallamshire Traditions CD Still Waters. They noted:

From the singing of the wonderful Len Bourne Fish of East Jaffray, New Hampshire. ‘Grammy’ Fish was visited in 1940 and 1941 by Frank and Anne Warner, two of the most important collectors of North American songs, and gave them nearly a hundred items, some not found elsewhere in North America. Many of Mrs Fish's songs can be found in Anne Warner's magnificent book Traditional American Folk Songs from the Anne & Frank Warner Collection, and she can be heard singing this song and others on The Warner Collection Vol. 1: Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still.

This song was composed by the New York dramatist and vaudevillian Edward Green ‘Ned’ Harrigan (1844-1911) and appeared in his 1995 comedy Old Lavender's Water.

Mawkin sang Jolly Roving Tar on their 2018 album Down Among the Dead Men. They noted:

A song about the life of a sailor. The song recounts how the pub is always willing to be your friend—until you run out of cash.


Peter Bellamy sings The Jolly Roving Tar

Ships may come and ships may go, just as long as the seas do run
And a sailor man, likewise his dad, he loves his pork and rum.
Now a lass ashore he do adore one that is plump and round;
But when your money’s all gone it’s the same old song:

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Get up Jack, John sit down!
Come along, come along me jolly brave boys,
There’s plenty more grog in the jar;
We’ll plow the briny ocean with a jolly roving tar

When Jack’s ashore he makes his way to some old boarding house
He’s welcomed in with rum and gin, likewise with fork and scouse.
Now he’ll spend and he’ll spend and he'll never offend until he lies drunk on the ground;
But when your money’s all gone it’s the same old song …

He then will ship aboard some ship bound for India or Japan,
Or in Asia there, the ladies fair all loves the sailor man.
He will trip ashore and he won’t scorn to buy some maid a gown
But when your money’s all gone it’s the same old song …

When Jack is old and weather-beat, too old to sail about,
In some grop shop they’ll let him stop ’til eight bells do ring out.
Then he’ll raise his hands high, and loud he’ll cry, “Thank God I’m homeward bound”,
But when your money’s all gone it’s the same old song …