A Shanty: The Eddystone Light (Thanks to Willow)

I was treated to the singing of a shanty, The Wellerman, on Willowdot21’s blog yesterday  morning:  It’s a great song and it got me to thinking – just what is a shanty? So I looked it up: a shanty is a song with alternating solo and chorus, of a kind originally sung by sailors while performing physical labor together.

Being a child of the 60s (the peak time for popular folk music) , the shanty I know the best is called Eddystone Light, which has been sung by the Seekers, the Weavers, Burl Ives and the Brothers Four. It is a whimsical tale of the Eddystone Lighthouse.

The Eddystone Lighthouse is located on the dangerous Eddystone Rocks, nine miles (14 km) south of Rame Head, Cornwall, in England. The rocks are submerged below the surface of the ocean, and thus have been major hazard to ships for centuries.

                                  Eddystone Lighthouse, engraved by W.B. Cooke 1836

The first lighthouse, completed in 1699, was the world’s first open ocean lighthouse. The first and second were destroyed by storm and fire, respectively. The third, also known as Smeaton’s Tower, is the known for its influence on lighthouse design and the use of concrete in the building of it. The current structure is the fourth, and you can see the stub of the third in front of it in this picture

So here is my favorite version of The Eddystone Light by the Brothers Four (made in 1961)

And if you want to sing along, here are the lyrics.

My father was the keeper of the Eddystone light
He married a mermaid one fine night
From this union there came three
A porpoise and a porgy and the other was me

Yo ho ho, the wind blows free
Oh, for a life on the rolling sea

Late one night, I was trimming the glim
While singing a verse from the evening hymn
A voice from starboard shouted, “Ahoy!”
And there was my mother, sitting on a buoy

Yo ho ho, the wind blows free
Oh, for a life on the rolling sea

“Tell me, what has become of my children three?”
My mother she did ask of me
One was exhibited as a talking fish
The other was served on a chafing dish

Yo ho ho, the wind blows free
Oh, for a life on the rolling sea

Then the phosphorous flashed in her seaweed hair
I looked again and me mother wasn’t there
A voice came echoing out of the night
“To Hell with the keeper of the Eddystone Light”

Yo ho ho, the wind blows free
Oh, for a life on the rolling sea

Yo ho
Yo ho
Yo ho

I sing this to my grandson (but without the To Hell!). Willow and I do love our shanties!



12 thoughts on “A Shanty: The Eddystone Light (Thanks to Willow)”

  1. Yes indeed we do Noelle they are great to sing with grandchildren, family and friends alike ! I am so glad my musical meandering inspired you to write about the shanty too. I am going to post the video I sent you yesterday about the Eddystone Light House sung by local lad The Shanty Blogger! Heave Ho! me hearty 💜💜💜

  2. I’ve always been fond of shanties – I don’t know whether my brother in the navy influenced that, but I doubt it, not directly, anyway. The Australian sheep herders used many shanties for their work, too, as I realised when discovering Click go the Shears, Boys is the same but for the words as the more usual version as a sea shanty whose name I can’t remember at the moment. Although Wikipedia only lists it has having the same song as Ring the Bell, Watchman. I think it’s older than that.

  3. Pingback: The Eddystone Light House. | willowdot21

  4. petespringerauthor

    The definition of a shanty I’m familiar with is a crudely built shack. We used to have a bar in town called The Shanty. I was only in it once, but the name fit the rundown condition of the tavern.

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