Pump Shanty

In merchant sailing ships in time when the shanties were used, the hulls of the boats were made of wood. Any change in the course or tack of the sails causes the stretching or squashing of the hull by sea waters, those stretches causing leakages on the hull, and the ship taking the water. To prevent the ship from sinking water has to be pumped out from the bilge out of the board. To keep wooden ships dry sailors pump out the water many hours every day. For this, an almost never ended work shanty was a must-have tool to keep sailors merry and up and running. Were two types of bilge pumps when the Pump Shanty was used:

Pump Shanty – First, the older type of pump

The older type was a pump with two handles where pumping happens by crew placed on opposite sites. Each site worked two to four sailors. When sailors from one site had a handle above the head, another site was on the level of the ankles on the opposite side. In this case, the pumping shanties pace was as follows: the first tact, pulling the handle and pushing it up, the second pushing it down to the ankles, the third pulling the handle and pushing it up, and so on …

pump-shanty braking levers
All Hands to the Pumps 1888-9 Henry Scott Tuke 1858-1929 Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1889 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N01618

Hugill is making reference to this when he says “old-fashioned levers” (1961, pf. 45).

Pump Shanty – Second, the Downton type of pump

It operated on the principle of two flywheels, where the sailors on the opposite side rotated their handles on the flywheels to make the work lighter. This pump calls the “Downton” pump:

Downton bilgr pump

Last Clarification, the “Downton” is the name of the inventor of the pump of that type. The important distinction is the method of operation, not whether or not the pump is exactly the same as Downton’s invention. The method is to turn a wheel.

Here is one of the not too many places where we can see it at work: Traditional bilge pump worked on James Craig tall ship

The Bell Ropes

In the Downton type of pump, sailors installed on ends of bars ropes (bell-rope), to make the job easier by taking more sailors involved in pumping.

Absolutely unique and authentic video of bell ropes in use…

Here is an example in Live example of the use of the bell ropes, probably the only one existing in the world! It starts on the 24th second of this amazing movie. In 0.25 min of this super unique movie, you can watch real pumping with bell ropes:

Repairs to Sailing Ship After Enduring an Atlantic Storm, 1938 - Film 95222

Index Of The Pump Shanty

  1. A-Rovin’ (A)
  2. A-Rovin’ (A2)
  3. A-Rovin’ (B)
  4. A-Rovin’ (C)
  5. A-Rovin’ (D)
  6. Across The Rockies
  7. Alabama II
  8. Albertina – Glyn Davies
  9. A-Rolling Down The River
  10. Dar Gingo Tre Flickor
  11. Den Gamla Briggen (Swedish)
  12. Die Gute Alte Brigg (German)
  13. Es Gingen Drei Madchen
  14. Go Roving (Norvegian)
  15. Good Mornin Ladies All B
  16. Heave Away Cheerily O!
  17. John come tell us as we haul away
  18. Julia (Norwegian)
  19. Leave Her Johnny Leave Her – Pumps
  20. Lowlands Away (A) (i)
  21. Lowlands Away (A) (ii)
  22. Lowlands Away (B)
  23. Lowlands or My Dollar An’ A Half A Day
  24. Mister Stormalong (A1)
  25. Mister Stormalong (A2)
  26. Poor Paddy Works On The Railway
  27. Roll The Woodpile Down
  28. Santiana (A)
  29. Shallow Brown A
  30. Shallow Brown A (Sentimental)
  31. Shallow Brown C
  32. Shallow Brown – Cecil Sharp
  33. Skonnert Albertina – Sternvall
  34. So Early In The Morning (A)
  35. So Early In The Morning (B)
  36. So Early In The Morning (C)
  37. Stormy Along, John
  38. Svineper
  39. The Girl in Portland Street
  40. The Girl With The Blue Dress (Davis & Tozer)
  41. The Fire Ship
  42. The Lowlands Low (C)
  43. The Ox-eyed Man (Davis & Tozer)
  44. The Plains of Mexico (B)
  45. The Plains of Mexico (C)
  46. The Sailors Way
  47. Way Me Susiana!
  48. Way Stormalong, John
  49. Well Ranzo Way

My private collection of books

Shantyman library –  you will see descriptions and recommendations of positions worth diving into, true sources of knowledge about sea shanties. To gain knowledge about sea shanties is the main ultimate purpose of this library, every book in this library is somehow related to sea shanties and before mast songs.

More involvement in Traditional Sea Shanties

You can find this record here or directly listen below. If you want to discuss the record or share your opinion you can do it in my Facebook forum here.