> Tony Rose > Songs > Stormy Weather

Stormy Weather Boys

[ Roud 1851 ; Ballad Index DTstrmyw ; trad.]

Bob Roberts sang Stormy Weather Boys in a BBC Archive recording by Peter Kennedy from the 1950s on the same-named EP Stormy Weather Boys! and on the compilation CD Sea Songs and Shanties. Bob Roberts commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

Stormy Weather Boys I first heard from an old man called Captain Ventris, who was skipper of a barge called “The Anglia” and at the time, in the 1930's, he was round about eighty-six or seven. He'd started on the river, trading between London and Ipswich, at the age of eleven.

I picked up snatches from another man I was mate with, Frank Griggs who belonged [to] Bradford in Essex. Old Frank used to sing the same song when he'd had enough pints. And I also picked up a verse or two from a young skipper. I just jotted it all together and made it into one. It's a song, that as far as I know, was never sung on any other craft but the spritty barges that traded on the East Coast.

Another Bob Records recording made at Ryde, Isle of Wight, in August 1977 can be found on his Topic LP Songs from the Sailing Barges. A.L. Lloyd commented laconically:

[…] As to barge songs proper, Stormy Weather, Boys, the account of a drunk and disorderly trip from the Surrey Docks in Rotherhithe to the Druid’s Arms in Yarmouth, and The Collier Brig, with its familiar chorus of “Waiting for the day till we get our pay”, are two of the best.

Tony Rose sang Stormy Weather live in Cheltenham in 1967. This recording was included in 2008 on his posthumous CD Exe.

Harold Smy from Ipswich, Suffolk. sang Stormy Weather Boys in 1985 to John Howson. This recording was included on the Veteran Tapes cassette Songs Sung in Suffolk Vol 5 and in 2001 on the Veteran anthology of traditional folk music from Coastal England, When the Wind Blows. John Howson noted:

Often called The Cod Banging Song or The Smacksman's Life at Sea, this song is normally associated with the fishing trade, so it is unusual to find the wind blowing a barge. It is popular song in East Anglia, with recorded versions from Bob Roberts and Bob Hart. Sussex's Johnny Doughty also had a version, but with Orford Ness here in the second verse, there is no doubting that Harold learned it locally.

Lyrics

Bob Roberts sings Stormy Weather

We were laying in the Surrey Dock one day,
The mate knew that it was time to get under way.

Chorus (after each verse):
Stormy weather boys, stormy weather boys,
When the wind blows our barge will go.

He's homeward bound but he's out of luck,
'Cause the skipper's half drunk in ‘The Dog and Duck’.

The skipper came aboard with a girl on his arm,
He's going to give his barge in and take a farm.

Then the mate ran for'ard and the cook fell in the dock,
And the skipper got his fingers in the main sheet block.

At last we're off down Lime'ouse Reach,
But the leeboards knocked on Greenwich Beach.

We shoves her off and away we go,
But the skipper's got a barrel of beer below.

She fills away and she sails like heck,
But there ain't no bargeman up on deck.

There's a crash and a bump and she's ashore,
The mate says Christ we're on the Nore.

Then up jumps a mermaid covered in mud,
We took her down the foc's'le and had a good time.

On the top of the tide the barge did fleet,
When the mate sees a ghost on the tops'l sheet.

So away we go and the ghost did steer,
And the cook drank the dregs of the Old Man's beer.

We lay close-hauled round Orford Ness,
When the wind backed round to the south-sou-west.

We reached our port all safe and sound,
And tied 'er up in Yarmouth Town.

So after all our fears and alarms,
We all ended up in ‘The Druid's Arms’.

Tony Rose sings Stormy Weather

We was laying in Surrey Dock one day
When the mate said that it was time to get under way.

Chorus (after each verse):
Stormy weather boys, stormy weather boys,
When the wind blows our barge will go.

Now the skipper he's homeward bound but he's out of luck,
'Cause the skipper's half drunk in ‘The Dog and Duck’.

Then the skipper come aboard with a girl on his arm,
He's going to give up barging and take on a farm.

We sailed away and she sails like heck
There ain't no bargemen up on deck.

We sailed her up, we sailed her down,
We sailed her into Yarmouth town.

We sailed her round Orford Ness,
The wind backed her round to the south south west.

On top of the tide it's the barge did fleet,
The mate saw a ghost in the main mast sheet.

Now the mate set the wheel, the ghost did steer,
The cook drank the dregs of the old man's beer.

Then up jumped a mermaid, covered in slime,
We sat her in the fo'c'sle and we had a good time.

So after all our fears and alarm
We all ended up in ‘The Druid's Arm’.

Harold Smy sings Stormy Weather Boys

Now it’s four o'clock and out we jump
And we’re heavin’ up the anchor and try the pump.

Chorus (after each verse):
Stormy weather boys, windy weather boys
When the wind blow the barge will go

As we got to Orford Ness
The wind flew down from the nor-nor-west

As we got to Harwich pier
Young and old got h’up to steer
Watch us get our cod on deck
And we hit ‘em on the head with a damn great stick

Now we broke our [borstal] level with the stern
And we unstick the stump and we stuck it out again