The site dedicated to the preservation of
Royal Navy Songs

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Barry E. Scott
16, Hendford
Yeovil, Somerset.
BA20 1TE
Tel: +44(0)1935 425603

Email: barry@navysong.co.uk

 

REFERENCE SOURCES
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The Songs and Ditties given on this web site have either been extracted from material collected by Barry E. Scott during his naval service or have been sent to him by ex- Royal Naval Men for inclusion in the project. As such they come directly from the voices of those who sang them.

The intention is to provide details of all sources used, to enable the reader to seek out alternate information and references.

Where possible comment is made with respect to the usage of the song, and it it is here we particularly need assistance, as it is well known that sailors would only sing certain songs in particular situations. Recovering that context can be difficult.

To extend the resource further and attempt to access the voices of those men who have long since passed over the bar.  I have searched literally thousands of manuscript diaries and letters etc. in the expectation of locating similar comment and reference.(Although when such description is given, the verses are usually given without mention of a tune.) However such mentions, being in an auto biographical context, it is considered that as they were recorded by the men that sang them, they can still effectively be said to come from their voice or more exactly from the hand of the performer. In similar vein, much use has again been made of printed autobiographies of ex RN personnel, but always be wary that where such texts have been edited by a non-RN person, a watering down of the song might have taken place..

 Occasionally reference can also be found in other sources and in such situations the merit of any item can only be assessed from the context in which it appears.

Such third hand sources include the various published song books, distributed or produced both by the Admiralty and private companies to attract the interest of the sailor. Such anthologies of song, must not be accepted as proof that the songs were accepted or even voluntarily sang by the men. For according to the admiralty, they served to improve on the type of songs that was already in circulation. Such song books are always found in printed format and also in (circa WW2) were produced on roll film to be projected on to the ships cinema screen etc. Where readers pocess such volumes, I would be exceedingly pleased to hear from them, with a list of song titles and contents and a description, date of the book.

Though these published Naval Song Books are of much interest; their contents cannot be seen as prime evidence of the type of song favoured by the RN lower deck sailor but more the type of song their officers would have liked them to sing.   Undoubtedly some of the content of these songsters did contain many very many songs popular with the men, but in each case we cn only judge them from the wealth of auto biographical information. Which tells us that the songbooks were classed very much like church hymn books, whilst the majority of songs from the commercial sector, seldom met favour during the Victorian period. This very much included the songs of Charles Dibden. Who though receiving an Admiralty prize for his music, seldom had it voiced on the lower deck. However some of these published items particularly during WW1 did occasionally find favour. Here we can nominate Charles Dibden's Tom Bowling and amongst other authors work, I'm a Stoker. However in contrast from late Victorian period to between the wars, several of the music hall, particularly the sentimental songs, were copied and well used in ships ships concert and more formal sods opera. 

Finally of absolute top importance - Is an attempt to locate surviving manuscript, typescript song, ditty or poetry books that were compiled by the sailors themselves. A handful is known, and again it would be appreciated if owners of such items, might give at worst a description of their contents and at best a photocopy (contact me regarding costs).

COPYRIGHT - All books and manuscripts are the issue of copyright. But most of the Naval songs have been well shared around tha they are firmly in the public domain. In all cases - the reader is directed to the sources on each song page for further information, or invited to contact me o the subject for additional information. Usually the use of all material in a private or informal situation is not a contentious situation, and material on these pages may be considered to be in that category, but no part should be used in commercial publication without proper copyright permission. -

Musicians should always make their own assessment as to what use can be made of any of the songs given here. All musical arrangements given or used within this site are copyright to myself, unless otherwise said, where that is true, the material may be freely used for personal entertainment only.

The Principle Work on this Subject - This first is a must have for all enthusiasts.. TAWNEY,Cyril (1987) Grey Funnel Lines – Traditional Song & Verse of the Royal Navy 1900 –1970 London  ISBN 0-7102-1270-4

PRIMARY REFERENCES
SCOTT, Barry E. Songs and Ditties of the Royal Navy & Royal Marines (unpublished)

ROYAL NAVY DESK REFERENCES
Ballads of the Blue (Circa 1910) - Published by the Fleet magazine. A day in a sailors life in musical text.

HMS Heron Rugby Football Club 'Dit' Book (Circa 1990)  - One of private printing containing 28 songs. From naval ditties to several bawdy rugby songs and a couple of traditional Folk Songs.

ROYAL NAVY REFERENCE - Auto Biographical
Numerous volumes

ROYAL NAVY REFERENCE - Historical
HMS Andromide The Log of HMS Andromide 1904-06, Published by the Naval Log Series (Copy Portsmouth Naval Library.)

OTHER REFERENCE - Music
HUGIL, Stan Shanties from the Seven Seas: Shipboard work-songs &c.1994 Mystic Seaport Museum ISBN 0-913372-70-6
PALMER, Roy Boxing the Compass : Sea Songs and Shanties 2001 Heron Publishing ISBN 0-9540682-0-3

 

 
Last Update : November 2012 a b c