Blow The Man Down

Another very popular shanty, the refrain of which has been married to several different texts, 'Blow the Man Down' was used primarily for work on the halyards, (or "halliards") on the long, slow task of hoisting the heavy yards and the courses of canvas sail. Our version is again taken from Hugill, though Colcord and Doerflinger each print several variants. The verses recount some of the treatment accorded to the sailors on the packet ships, perhaps only slightly exaggerated by the shantyman.

Oh, as I was a-strolling down Great Howard Street,
     Way, hay, blow the man down,
A handsome flash packet I chanced for to meet,
     Oh, give me some time to blow the man down.

This charming flash packet, she said unto me:
There's a dandy Black Baller just ready for sea.

So I packed up my sea-chest, and I signed on that day,
And with that flash packet I spent my half-pay.

And when that Black Baller was ready for sea,
Oh, it's then that we went on a hell of a spree.

There's tinkers and tailors, and soldiers and all,
They ship as prime seamen upon the Black Ball.

It's "Foretops'l halyards!" the mate he will roar,
And, "Lay aloft smartly, you son of a whore."

Yes, it's larboard and starboard an deck you will sprawl,
For Kickin' Jack Williams commands this Black Ball.

As soon as you're clear over old Mersey Bar,
The mate knocks you down with the end of a spar.

And as soon as the packet is well out to sea,
Then it's cruel, hard usage of every degree.

So it's blow the man down, bullies, blow the man down,
With a craw of hard cases from Liverpool town.

© Golden Hind Music