> Tim Hart & Maddy Prior > Songs > The Stately Southerner

The Stately Southerner

[ Roud 625 ; Laws A3 ; Ballad Index LA03 ; trad.]

DT #360, from William M. Doerflinger: Shanteymen and Shanty Boys.

Maddy Prior sang The Stately Southerner, accompanied by Tim Hart on banjo, in 1968 on their first duo album Folk Songs of Old England Vol. 1. The record’s sleeve notes comment:

In 1778 [privateer] John Paul Jones, an American sailor although a Scot by birth, carried out a number of daring attacks on the British [Cumberland] coast in a brig of 18 guns. This is a highly lyrical song of praise to John Paul Jones’ ship [the Ranger], which was one of the fastest and the best equipped of that period.

Dave Webber sang Stately Southerner in 1996 on his and Anni Fentiman’s CD Bonnet & Shawl. They commented in their album notes:

A song from the American side of the wars of independence, concerning John Paul Jones’s raid on the western shores of the British Isles in his eighteen gun ship The Ranger in 1778. The song was very popular with British Merchantmen as they tended to favour the south. These are the words collected by Cicely Fox Smith. Two tunes are woven into this song. They are Princess Royal and Yankee Doodle.


Maddy Prior sings The Stately Southerner

She was a stately Southerner that flew the Stars and Bars
The whistling wind from the west northwest blew through her pitch-pine spars
As like an eagle swiftly on she flew before the gale,
Till late that night she raised alive the Old Head of Kinsale.

No thought was there of shortening sail by him who trod the poop,
Though by the weight of the ponderous jibs, the boom bent like a hoop;
Our groaning chess-trees told the strain that bore the stout main tack
But he only laughed as he gazed abaft at the bright and silvery track.

It was a fine and a cloudless night, the breeze held steady and strong
As gaily o’er the shining deep our good ship bowled along.
In foam beneath the trembling bows a-mounting waves she spread
As stooping low her breast of snow she buried her lee cat-head.

“What blooms upon the starboard bow what hangs upon the breeze?
’Tis time the package hauls her wind abreast the old Saltee.”
For by a mighty press of sails that clothed each ponderous spar
That ship we spied on the misty tide was a British man-o’-war.

“Out booms, out booms!” our skipper cried. “Out booms, and give her sheet.”
And the swiftest ship that ever was launched shot away from the British fleet.
Amidst a murderous hail of shots and stun’sails hoisted away
Down Channel clear Paul Jones did steer just at the break of day.


Thanks to Jerry Pedersen for helping me getting the lyrics straight!