Michael Watson – The Powder Monkey (1885)

Michael Watson – The Powder Monkey

I read about this beautiful song of the sea from Stan Hugill’s greatest book “Shanties from the Seven Seas”. In his book, on page 148 of the first edition, he gives us only the chorus of this song. It seems to be based on the chant of “Donkey Riding”, he did not remember the source or composer of this song. The song according to Stan Hugill’s description points to this song at the time in the 1850s. Unfortunately, in “Shanties from the Seven Seas” we can only find the chorus. Here is the oldest source of this beautiful song I could get.

This is the 59th edition written and composed by Michael Watson “The Powder-Monkey” (An Old Salt’s Story), published by London: Patey & Willis, [n / a]. Interesting information on the cover says that “this song may be sung in public free of charge”. However, two things are most important to me, the first one – is this is the first song in Stan Hugill’s book, which is not a sea shanty or a forebitter, it is a full-blooded “shore sea-song”, two – is the melody of the verses spectacularly changes the whole song, the refrain itself sounds like a sea shanty.

Do you want to be more involved?

You can find excellent records of sea shanties here. If you want to discuss this book or share your opinion you can do it in my Facebook forum here, or below post in the comment section.

Related to The Powder Monkey

Halina Stefanowska – Rozspiewane Morze (1975)

Jim Mageean – Sail Away (2021)

Gibb Schreffler – Boxing The Compass (2018)

The Powder Monkey – Shore Sea-Song

Interesting Facts about The Powder Monkey

Stan Hugill in his book gives us only a chorus of The Powder Monkey, it seems to be based on “Donkey Ridding” shanty, he didn’t remember the source or composer, of this ditty, the song according to the description from Stan Hugill point this song in time around the 50s of nineteen century.

Unfortunately in “Shanties from the Seven Seas” we can find the only chorus, so I took the first stanza from this beautiful shore song from Michael Watson, The Powder-Monkey (An Old Salt’s Story) – 50th edition (London: Patey & Willis, [n.d.]), and I add to this first verse-chorus from Stan Hugill. It was also done a bit of musical work because in the book the song was in G note, so I had to transpose it down to F note, to match the chorus from Stan Hugill. Also worth noting is that stanzas 2 and 3 are not confirmed. This is the first song from “Shanties from the Seven Seas” which is not shanty or forebitter, as Stan Hugill mentions it is a “shore sea-song”.

The song will be reconstructed by myself as the “shore sea-song”.

The source of this sea shanty

The music: “The Powder-Monkey (An Old Salt’s Story) – 50th edition” by Michael Watson (1885).

The lyrics:  “The Powder-Monkey (An Old Salt’s Story) – 50th edition” by Michael Watson (1885).

Mentioned in: “Shanties from the Seven Seas” by Stan Hugill (1st ed p 148).

The Record of The Powder Monkey

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 Powder Monkey - Shore Sea-Song

The musical notation

the-powder-monkey-shore-sea-song music notation 1
the-powder-monkey-shore-sea-song music notation 2

The full lyrics

The Powder Monkey

A yarn I’ve got to spin as how Ive heard my old dad tell,
Of a gallant little hero who aboard the vict’ ry fell,
He was brimming full o’ courage, an’ was just the sort of lad,
To make the sort o’ sailor that our Navy’s always had.
As powder monkey, little Jim was pet o’ all the crew,
with his flaxen hair so curly, an’ his pretty eyes o’ blue;
An’ the bo’s’un always said as how that what got over him,
Was the chorus of a sailor’s song as sung by little Jim.

– Soon we’ll be in London Town, sing, my lad, yo ho o!
– and see the king in a golden crown, sing, my lads, yo, ho!
– Heave ho! on we go, sing, my lads, yo, ho!
– And Who’s a-feared to meet the foe? sing, my lads, yo, ho!

* 2 *

In ninety-eight we chased the foe right into ” Bourky Bay,”
And we fought away like (nigger) slavers’s, all the night till break of day,
The foeman’s flag ship “Orient,” was blowed away sky-high,
With the Admiral an’ all his crew an sare em right says I.
Now little Jim was in the thick of fall the fire and smoke
And he seemed to think that fighting hard was nothing but a joke,
For he handed up the powder from the maghzines below,
And all the while a singing, as if his pluck to show.

* 3 *

But little Jim was booked as the fight was just on won,
A musket bullet pick’d him off, afore his song was done,
They took him to the cock-pit, where a smiling he did lie,
And the sailors—Well, there warn’t a man but somehow piped his eye,
Says Jim, “my lad, don’t fret for me, but if the shore ye see,
Give a kiss to dear old mother, and say it comes from me,
And there never was a braver heart, that served our gracious Queen.
When the little powder monkey, who so gallantly used to sing.

Related to this song

Roll The Woodpile Down – Shore Song

Timber Drogher’s Shanty

Hieland Laddie (B) – stevedores chant