Interesting Facts about the Ratcliffe Highway
Here is the old forebitter “Ratcliffe Highway”, which was sometimes sung at the pumps and the capstan, as told to Stan Hugill, his fellow sailor Paddy Delaney, who used to sail in the old days on the Packet Ships. As Stan Hugill tells us, regarding the words of this song, they were used in the first version of “Blow the Man Down”, which Stan Hugill calls in his book the “Blow the Man Down – A”.
As one of these Western Ocean shanties, I will reconstruct with a common introductory verse (first verse at the beginning).
I would also like to thank Artur Pietrzykowski for the wonderful illustration that you can find at the beginning of the record.
The source of this sea shanty
The music: “Shanties from the Seven Seas” by Stan Hugill (1st ed p 200).
The lyrics: “Shanties from the Seven Seas” by Stan Hugill (1st ed p 200, 201).
The Record of the Ratcliffe Highway
You also can find this record on my YouTube channel here or directly listen below. Additionally, if you want to share your opinion about the record or share your opinion you can do it in my Facebook forum here, or leave a comment at the bottom of this blog article.
The musical notation
The full lyrics
Come all ye young sailors an’ listen to me,
I’ll sing ye a song all about the high sea,
Now it tain’t very short, nor it tain’t very long,
‘Tis of a Flyin’ Fish Sailor just home from Hong Kong.
– Singin’ too-relye-addie, too-relye-addie,
– Singin’ too-relye-addie, aye, too-relye-ay!
* 1 *
Now as I wuz a walkin’ down Ratcliffe Highway,
A flash lookin’ packet I chanet for to say,
Of the port that she hailed from I cannot say much,
But by her appearance I took her for Dutch,
* 2 *
Her flag wuz three colours, her masthead wuz low,
She wuz round the counter an’ bluff at the bow.
From larboard to starboard an’ so sailed she,
She wuz sailing at large, she wuz runnin’ free.
* 3 *
She wuz bowlin’ along wid her wind blowin’ free;
She clewed up her courses an’ waited for me.
I fired me bow-chaser, the signal she knew,
She backed her maintops’l an’ for me hove to.
* 4 *
I hailed her in ENglish, she answered me clear,
I’m from the Black Arrow, bound to the Shakespeare,
So I wore ship an’ with a ‘What d’ya know?’
I passed ‘er me hawser an’ took ‘er in tow.
* 5 *
I tipped up my flipper an’ took her in tow,
And yard-arm to yard-arm away we did go,
She then took me up her lily-white room,
An’ there all the evening we drank and we spooned.
(Verses 6 and 7 omitted.)
* 6 *
Soon the evening did pass, boys, I lashed up an’ stowed,
I gave her some shillings ‘fore I left her abode,
But it ‘twarn’t quite enough, boys, she wanted some more,
She cursed me an’ called me a son-o’-a-whore.
She blazed like a frigate, at me she let fire,
An’ nothing could stem, boys, that Irish tart’s ire,
She kicked me an’ cursed me an’ stove in me jaw,
An’ I beat retreat through her open back-door.
* 7 *
I’ve fought wid the Russians, the Prussians also,
I’ve fought wid the Dutch, an’ wid Johnny Crapo,
But of all the fine fights that I ever did see,
She beat all the fights o’ the heathen Chinee.
* 8 *
Now all ye young sailors take a warnin’ I say,
Take it aisy, me boys, when yer down that Highway,
Steer clear of them flash gals, on the Highway do dwell,
Or they’ll take up yer flipper an’ yer soon bound ter Hell!