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Ward the Pirate / Captain Ward

[ Roud 224 ; Child 287 ; G/D 1:39 ; Ballad Index C287 ; Bodleian Roud 224 ; trad.]

Ewan MacColl sang Captain Ward and the Rainbow in 1956 on his and A.L. Lloyd's Riverside anthology The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (The Child Ballads) Volume IV. This and 28 other ballads from this series were reissued in 2009 on MacColl's Topic CD Ballads: Murder·Intrigue·Love·Discord. Kenneth S. Goldstein commented in the album's booklet:

This ballad concerns the famous English pirate, John Ward, who, together with a Dutch accomplice, Dansekar, was the scourge of the seas from 1604 to 1609. Though Ward was the subject of numerous ballad and prose pieces, the traditional ballad appears to derive from a black letter broadside of the 17th century.

The ballad has had a longer life in the New World than in Britain. It has not been reported from tradition in England since Child, and the two versions recorded by Greig in Aberdeen appear to be the last reported in Scotland. It has, however, not infrequently been reported in America. Some of the American texts tell of Ward's capture and hanging, which, though consistent with history, do not come from the broadside tradition mentioned above. It is possible that this element may have been borrowed from some other sea song in much the same way in which some versions of Sir Andrew Barton (Child 167) borrow Ward's taunting lines from the last stanza of this ballad.

MacColl's version is a collation; the tune and one stanza were learned from his father and additional stanzas were learned from Greig and Keith [Last Leaves of Traditional Ballads and Ballad Airs].

The Clutha sang Captain Ward and the Reindeer in 1971 on their Argo album Scotia!.

Dave Burland sang Captain Ward and the Rainbow in 1972 on his eponymous Trailer album Dave Burland.

Cyril Poacher sang a two-verse fragment of Captain Ward and the Rainbow in a recording made by Mike Yates in Blaxhall in 1974. It was included in 2004 on Musical Traditions' Cyril Poacher anthology Plenty of Thyme.

Peter Bellamy set a version of Ward the Pirate collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams from James Carter in King's Lynn, Norfolk, to a tune of his own and recorded it for both of his 1975 albums Peter Bellamy and Tell It Like It Was. He commented in the former album's notes:

This short version of the great pirate ballad was collected in Norfolk by Vaughan Williams, once again with a disappointing tune. I have therefore set the verses to another ballad tune, Edwin.

Roy Harris sang Captain Ward in 1975 on his album Champions of Folly. This track was also included on the Topic compilation CD Round Cape Horn.

Alba sang Captain Ward in 1978 on their eponymous album on the Rubber Records label, Alba.

Tundra sang Captain Ward and the Rainbow in 1978 on their Sweet Folk All album A Kentish Garland.

Dr Faustus sang Captain Ward in 2003 on their Fellside CD The First Cut.

Coope Boyes & Simpson recorded Ward the Pirate in 2005 for their album Triple Echo: Songs collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams, George Butterworth and Percy Grainger. They commented in their sleeve notes:

This magnificent swashbuckler won its singer, John Bayley, a price at a “cheap-jack's singing match”. When Vaughan Williams recorded him and James Carter, a fisherman, singing it at North End, Kings Lynn in January 1906, Mr Bayley described it, with justifiable pride, as a “master song”. Although his life reads like a television mini-series, Ward isn't a fictional character. Born at Faversham in Kent, John Ward first worked as a fisherman, joining the navy around 1601. By 1616, he had turned pirate in the Mediterranean, became a Muslim and was living in Tunis where he had built “a fair palace, beautified with rich marble and alabaster stones.” Despite offering James I a reported 30.000 gold crowns for a Pardon to return home, Ward died of plague in Tunis in 1622.

Steve Tilston sang Captain Ward in 2005 on his CD Of Many Hands.

John Spiers and Jon Boden sang Captain Ward in 2008 on their Navigator CD Vagabond and Jon Boden sang it as the January 4, 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. They commented in their CD's liner notes:

John Ward supposedly turned pirate in 1604 after persuading the crew of a king's ship to join him in his new career move. From the singing of Peter Bellamy.

The Demon Barbers learned Captain Ward from Peter Bellamy's record too and recorded it as title track of their 2010 CD, The Adventures of Captain Ward.

Steve Roud included Captain Ward and the Rainbow in 2012 in The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. Brian Peters sang it a year later on the accompanying Fellside CD The Liberty to Choose: A Selection of Songs from The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs.

Rachael McShane sang a somewhat different Captain Ward (from Buchan and Hall, The Scottish Folksinger) in 2009 on her CD No Man's Fool and at the National Forest Folk Festival 2009:

Claire Hastings sang Captain Ward, with lyrics quite similar to Rachael McShane's, in 2014 on Top Floor Taivers' eponymous EP Top Floor Taivers.

Lyrics

Peter Bellamy sings Ward the Pirate

Come all you gallant seamen bold, all you that march to drum,
Let's go and look for Captain Ward, far out on the sea he roams.
For he is the biggest robber that ever you did hear;
And there's not been such a robber found in above this hundred year.

Now a ship it was sailing from the east and going to the west,
Loaded with silks and satins and velvets of the best.
But in meeting there with Captain Ward, it was a sad meeting:
For he robbed them of their wealth and their store and bid them tell their king.

So it's then our king he builded a ship of noted fame,
She's call'd the Royal Rainbow if you would know her name.
And she was as well provided for as any ship can be,
With thirteen hundred men on board to bear her company.

And at eight o'clock in the morning when they did begin to fight;
And so did they continue there till nine o'clock at night.
“Fight on, fight on!” cried Captain Ward, “For this sport pleases me;
But though you fight a month or more, your master still I'll be!”

So it's then the Royal Rainbow she fired but she fired all in vain,
Till six and sixty of her men all on the decks lie slain.
“Go home, go home!” cried Captain Ward, “Tell your king from me:
Though he reigns king on all dry land I'll reign king on the sea!”

Jon Boden sings Captain Ward

Come all you gallant sailors bold, all you who march to drum,
Let's go and look for Captain Ward, far out on the seas he roams.
For he is the biggest robber that ever you did hear;
And there has not been such a robber found in above this hundred year.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
The wind blows high and the wind blows low
All on the raging sea

A ship was sailing from the east and going to the west,
All loaded with silks and satins fine and velvets of the best.
But in meeting there with Captain Ward, it was a sad meeting:
For he robbed us of our wealth and their store and bid us tell our king.

So our king then he has built him a ship of noted fame,
She's called the Royal Rainbow if you would know her name.
She was as well provided for as any ship can be,
With thirteen hundred sailors bold to bear her company.

And at six o'clock in the morning how they did begin to fight;
And so they did continue there till eight o'clock at night.
“Fight on, fight on!” says Captain Ward, “For this sport pleases me;
Although you fight a month or more, your master still I'll be!”

And then the Royal Rainbow she fired but she fired all in vain,
Until three hundred sailors bold all on the ship lay slain.
“Go home, go home!” says Captain Ward, “And tell your king from me:
Although he's king of all dry land yet I'm king of the sea!”

Rachael McShane sings Captain Ward

Come all you jolly mariners that love to take a dram,
Well, I'll tell you of a robber who o'er the seas did come.
And he sent a letter to his king on the eleventh of July,
To see if he would accept of him for his jovial company.

“Oh no, oh no,” the king he said, "such things can never be,
For they tell me you're a robber, a robber on the sea.”
So he has built a bonny ship and sent her to the sea,
With four and twenty mariners to guard his bonny ship wi'.

They sailed up and they sailed down so stately, blithe, and free,
Till they spied the king's high Reindeer a-sailing on the sea.
“Why lie you here, you tinkers, you silly cowardly thieves?
Why lie you here, you tinkers, an' hold our king in grief?”

They fought from one in the morning till it was six at night,
Until the king's high Reindeer was forced to take her flight.
“Go home, go home, you tinkers, and tell your king from me,
Though he reign king upon good dry land, I'll reign king upon sea.”

References

For more versions see the Digital Study thread at the Mudcat Café, Captain Ward.