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Hog-Eye Man

[ Roud 331 ; Ballad Index RL401 ; trad.]

Ian Campbell and chorus sang the capstan shanty Hog-Eye Man in 1964 on the Topic album of sea songs and shanties, Farewell Nancy. A.L. Lloyd commented in the sleeve notes:

Though familiar to British seamen, this song, used mainly for capstan work, was probably made in America. It’s still a favourite there, evidently, for the folklorist Vance Randolph found several versions current among Missouri hill-folk nearly a thousand miles from the sea. Alas, Randolph’s versions remain in manuscript, locked away in a Sex Research Institute in Indiana. The version here—melody, at least—was taken down in the 1860s.

Martyn Wyndham-Read, Danny Spooner, Gordon MacIntyre and Peter Dickie sang The Hogs-Eye Man in 1966 on their Australian album A Wench, a Whale and a Pint of Good Ale.

Sara Grey sang Sally in the Garden in 1982 on her Fellside album of songs and tunes from North America, A Breath of Fresh Air.

Waterson:Carthy sang the capstan shanty Hog-Eye Man in 2006 on the double CD Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys. They were accompanied by Eliza Carthy, violin; Tim van Eyken, accordion; Martyn Barker, percussion; Andy Newark, drums. The album's sleeve notes comment:

A hog-eye was apparently a type of barge used in the canals and rivers of America from the 1850's onward. Thus, “hog-eye man” was used in derogation by the deep water sailors who used this chantey at the capstan. Many of the original verses to this chantey were for too obscene to have ever found their way into print.

On this album they also sang The Mermaid, and Eliza Carthy sang Rolling Sea.

John Roberts sang Hog-Eye Man in 2007 on his solo CD Sea Fever.

Cyril Tawney sang Hogs Eye Man live at the Holsteins folk club in Chicago on May 31, 1981. This concert was published in 2007 on his CD Live at Holsteins.

The New Scorpion Band sang The Hogseye Man in 2008 on the Cromer's Lifeboats charity CD, Never Chance Your Luck Against the Sea.

Jackie Oates and chorus sang Hog-Eyed Man on the 2012 anthology of sea songs of Watchet sailor John Short collected by Cecil Sharp, Short Sharp Shanties Vol. 3. The project notes commented:

This is one of the Shanties where authors seem to be obsessed about obscenity. Whall: “much of this shanty is unprintable”; Terry: “Of the infinite number of verses to this fine tune hardly one is printable”; Colcord: “None of the versions can be printed in anything like their entirety”; Hugill: “Many other shanties were just as obscene, and even worse.” A lot of note-space is expended—leading nowhere, for example: Terry: “There has been much speculation as to the origin of the title. As a boy my curiosity was piqued by reticence, evasion, or declarations of ignorance, whenever I asked the meaning of the term. It was only in later life that I learnt it from Mr. Morley Roberts. His explanation made it clear why every sailor called it either ‘hog‑eye’ or ‘hog's‑eye,’ and why only landsmen editors ever get the word wrong” and Hugill: “I rather think Terry got his words mixed—he was thinking of ‘Dead-eye’ and not ‘Hog-eye’, the former having both a nautical and an obscene significance.” Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, then! Short’s text may be sexually based—but even slightly expanded it is not obscene, although it is in line with the theme of other versions. We have commented elsewhere on whether Short self-censored—we rather like him getting his own nickname into the text!

Whall dates the shanty to 1849/1850 and points out that “until the roads were made, there was great business carried on by water, the chief vehicles being barges called ‘hog-eyes’.” The general consensus is that the shanty is of Negro origin, probably from river boatmen—the men who worked the hog-eyes (although one version does refer to a ‘railroad navvie’), and all agree that, at sea, it was a windlass/capstan shanty.

Regarding the location of Whitemore Lane, Sharp’s notes give “In Cardiff but now done away with.”

The Andover Museum Loft Singers conducted by Paul Sartin sang The Hog's Eye Man in 2012 on their WildGoose CD The Bedmaking, and Faustus—Benji Kirkpatrick, Saul Rose and Paul Sartin—sang Og's Eye Man in 2013 on their Navigator CD Broken Down Gentlemen.

Lyrics

Waterson:Carthy sing Hog-Eye Man

Oh, hand me down my riding cane,
I'm off to meet my darlin' Jane.

Chorus (after each verse):
And a hog-eye!
Railroad navvy with his hog-eye,
Steady on a jig with a hog-eye, oh,
She wants the hog-eye man!

Oh, the hog-eye man is the man for me,
Sailin' down from o'er the sea.

Oh, he came to the shack where Sally did dwell,
He knocked on the door, he rung a bell.

Oh, who's been here since I been gone,
Railroad navvy with his sea-boots on.

If I catch him here with Sally once more,
I'll sling me hook, go to sea once more.

Oh, Sally's in the garden sifting sand,
Her hog-eye man sittin' hand in hand.

Oh, Sally's in the garden, punchin' dough,
The cheeks of her arse go chuff, chuff, chuff!

Oh, I won't wear a hog-eye, damned if I do,
Got jiggers in his feet and he can't wear shoes.

Oh, the hog-eye man is the man for me,
He is blind and he cannot see.

Oh, a hog-eye ship and a hog-eye crew,
A hog-eye mate and a skipper too.