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Help: Bay of Biscay - My Willie Sails

DigiTrad:
BAY OF FUNDY
GHOST OF WILLIE-O
THE BAY OF BISCAY-O


Related threads:
(origins) Origin: Bay of Biscay-o + Neptune's Raging Fury (18)
Tune: Bay of Biscay (Tim Hart & Maddy Prior) (4)


Calhoon 01 Sep 99 - 01:46 PM
Bat Goddess 02 Sep 99 - 07:50 AM
catspaw49 02 Sep 99 - 08:02 AM
William Pint 02 Sep 99 - 11:51 AM
Wolfgang 02 Sep 99 - 01:39 PM
Barry Finn 02 Sep 99 - 11:04 PM
William Pint 05 Sep 99 - 12:02 PM
Barry Finn 05 Sep 99 - 01:45 PM
John Moulden 05 Sep 99 - 03:11 PM
John Moulden 05 Sep 99 - 07:43 PM
John Moulden 05 Sep 99 - 07:53 PM
Bat Goddess 07 Sep 99 - 12:49 PM
Abby Sale 02 Sep 00 - 01:59 PM
GUEST,sophocleese on another computer 02 Sep 00 - 04:55 PM
Malcolm Douglas 02 Sep 00 - 06:21 PM
GUEST,Declan 07 Mar 02 - 07:46 AM
Charley Noble 07 Mar 02 - 02:11 PM
Herga Kitty 07 Mar 02 - 06:15 PM
GUEST,MAG at work 08 Mar 02 - 11:25 AM
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Subject: Bay of Biscay - My Willie Sails
From: Calhoon
Date: 01 Sep 99 - 01:46 PM

Can anyone help me with the background to this song please - many thanks


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Subject: RE: Help: Bay of Biscay - My Willie Sails
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 02 Sep 99 - 07:50 AM

I do it -- got it from a Tim Hart/Maddy Prior recording from many years ago.

The only written reference I've found (and it's not quite the same version, as I recall) was in a little Irish town or county songbook brought back from Ireland by a friend a few years ago. I have a photocopy of it at home. I don't believe it said anything useful about the origins, though.

Linn


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Subject: RE: Help: Bay of Biscay - My Willie Sails
From: catspaw49
Date: 02 Sep 99 - 08:02 AM

Your Willie sails? Really. How interesting!

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Help: Bay of Biscay - My Willie Sails
From: William Pint
Date: 02 Sep 99 - 11:51 AM

While on tour in England (after singing our version of the Bay of Biscay), Felicia Dale and I met a fellow at the 'Folk at the Grove' folk club who swore that he had collected that song in Ireland years ago. (Now - it WAS in a pub and he might just have been full of Guiness - but he seemed sincere). you could write to him and see what you get.

Geoff Wood 1 Dean Head Cottages, Scotland Lane Horsforth, Leeds LS18 5HU England

If you'd like to hear our version, by the way, it's on the Hearts of Gold CD. check out our page http://members.aol.com/Pintndale/


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Subject: RE: Help: Bay of Biscay - My Willie Sails
From: Wolfgang
Date: 02 Sep 99 - 01:39 PM

I first thought it was a question on the better known other 'Bay of Biscay' (see DT). Then Catspaw was unwilliely helpful by drawing my attention to 'Willie', and see, there's no Willie in DT's version. So let's start with the version following William Pint's lead:

BAY OF BISCAY
(sung:) by William Pint & Felicia Dale




My Willy sails on board the tender
And where he is I do not know
For seven long years
I've been constantly waiting
Since he crossed the Bay of Biscay-oh

One night as Mary lay sleeping
A knock came to her bedroom door
Saying "Arise, arise, my dearest Mary
For to earn one glimpse of your Willy-oh"

Young Mary rose, put on her clothing
And to the bedroom door did go
And there she spied her Willy standing
His two pale cheeks as white as snow

"Oh Willy dear where are those blushes
Those blushes I knew long years ago?"
"Oh Mary dear - the cold clay ashed them
I am only the ghost of your Willy -oh"

"Oh Mary dear, the dawn is breaking
Don't you think it's time for me to go?
I am leaving you quite broken hearted
For to cross the Bay of Biscay-oh"

"If I had all the gold and silver
And all the money in Mexico
I would grant it all to the king of Erin
For to bring me back my Willy-oh"

William and Felicia's notes: 'Bay of Biscay', traditional but run through the "folk processor" to suit our fancies, looks at the ghostly homecoming of a drowned sailor after seven years lost at sea.'

I have no real idea how this ballad was compiled (written). But it surely reminds of several "Drowned lover" or "Drowned sailor" ballads or the very old "Captain Digby's Farewell". Then take the motif of the return of the dead lover as a ghost (several Child ballads), the real dangers of the Bay of Biscay (there are a couple of shipwreck [or near shipwreck] songs from that area), and the Willie from 'Rare Willie', another drowned lover song from F. Child, and the song is nearly completed.

This is but a fancy story with little background. The real story behind this fine ballad could be something totally different. I'd love to read it.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: Help: Bay of Biscay - My Willie Sails
From: Barry Finn
Date: 02 Sep 99 - 11:04 PM

I can say first hand that William & Felicia's version is quite a nice one & well worth hearing. While you're here William (if you're still here) where did you happen to pick up the last verse of the Saltpeter Shanty, I have a few others (one from a version called Slav Ho) but I love that for an ending. Barry from a Emigration & Transportation workshop with you a few yrs back at Mystic.


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Subject: RE: Help: Bay of Biscay - My Willie Sails
From: William Pint
Date: 05 Sep 99 - 12:02 PM

Thanks Barry -- I heard Saltpetre Shanty from an old Johnny Collins tape (long before I met Johnny). I think I just made up that last verse (or at least expanded a phrase into a verse) to round out our arrangement of the song. I'd have to dig out that old cassette to check and that could take weeks!


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Subject: ADD Version: Saltpeter Shanty
From: Barry Finn
Date: 05 Sep 99 - 01:45 PM

Thanks William. I got the song (1 verse & a chorus - Slav Ho) about 20 yrs ago from an older recording of the Critics, Ewan said that he'd only had that 1 verse (from Colcord?). I added a few verses over the years, cause it was such a cracker of a song I couldn't bare singing 1 verse, then I ran into David Perry just before be passed on & he had the version Hugill has. I ended up keeping the original verse plus 3 that I had plus 3 from Hugill & the one you end with.

Saltpeter Shanty

For the Spanish Main we are bound away
Oh roll (Slav Ho) (2X)
We are sailing away at the break of day where the swift bonnita & dolphin do play

Grand Chorus:

Oh roll rock her bars heave her hi oh rock her roll (Slav ho slav vita brav say ya marita slav ho- thats how it sounds anyway)

To ol Callio we are bound away, oh roll (2X)
We are bound away from Liverpool Bay to the flash gals of Chili who'll take all our pay

A lashing of liquor the ol man gives, oh roll (2X)
If he keeps it up we'll bust a gut or drive this ship through hell if we must

When the order comes round for to shorten more sail, oh roll (2X)
We'll call for more ale in a full blown gale or up aloft you'll not see our tail

For 2 weary weeks we beat round the horn, oh roll (2X)
To push us on till the break of dawn salt spray we drank from night until morn

Those flash gals of Chili they're hard to beat, oh roll (2X)
They'll greet us & love us & treat us to wine but the bastards are robbing us most of the time

Ol Pedro the crimp we know him of old, Oh roll (2X)
He's priming his vino & doping his beer to the Chinchas he'll ship us if we don't steer clear

And when time comes time to sail away home, oh roll (2X)
From some old seaport town on the west coast of hell we'll sing adious & wish you all well

Barry


See Saltpeter Shanty thread


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Subject: RE: Help: Bay of Biscay - My Willie Sails
From: John Moulden
Date: 05 Sep 99 - 03:11 PM

Sam Henry's "Songs of the People" p 383 associates this song with other dead lover songs - Len Graham sings a version on 12TS334 and the song appeared on Irish ballad sheets in the 19th century


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Subject: RE: Help: Bay of Biscay - My Willie Sails
From: John Moulden
Date: 05 Sep 99 - 07:43 PM

Apologies; aspects of my contribution above are misleading.

This is generally associated with versions of Child 77 Sweet William and Lady Margaret.

However, in this form, it appears to be confined to north Ulster.

Len Graham, Jimmy McBride and Hugh Shields found it among Donegal singers. Len Graham found two other people who sang it, one of whom I know came from North Antrim, I have no knowledge of the location of the other.

It seems fairly certain that the impulse for all these versions was the ballad sheet I mentioned


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Subject: RE: Help: Bay of Biscay - My Willie Sails
From: John Moulden
Date: 05 Sep 99 - 07:53 PM

Sorry again, Geoff Woods collected the song from James McGinley, Donegal in August 1965. Jimmy was one of Len Graham's sources.

Geoff's notation is in "Traditional Topics" vol 1 no 2 - Feb 1968 (edited by Peter Nalder) The performance recorded by Len is on "It's of my Rambles" (Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Harvest Home, Field Recordings from the Irish Tradition no 2) (Cassette 2) Side 3 Track 4. This performance is the source of Len's own performance of this song on his Topic LP "Wind and Water")


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Subject: Bay of Biscay - Redux
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 07 Sep 99 - 12:49 PM

As I mentioned previously, I got the version I do from Tim Hart & Maddy Prior's 1970-something recording.The only other reference I have found was in"The Flower of Dunaff Hill and more traditional songs sung in Inishowen"Compiled and annotated by Jimmy McBride(published 1988 Crana Publishing Co., Buncrana, Co. Donegal)As sung by Maggie McGee of Buncrana.Same story, minor wording changes, but the dots look different from the tune I got from Hart/Prior.The notes say to see Child No. 77 and "Old British Ballads from Donegal and Derry" (1970) and "Broadsides" in the National Library, DublinDon't confuse with Laws K3 of the same name.Linn


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Subject: RE: Help: Bay of Biscay - My Willie Sails
From: Abby Sale
Date: 02 Sep 00 - 01:59 PM

There are two different tunes/song named "The Bay of Biscay" in the Database (and also at The Contemplator) but this is clearly a third.

I'm listening to a longer version as done by Norma Waterson on Broken Ground. It's clearly a 'William-is-gone-to sea' - revenant lover - Child #248 of "The Grey Cock"/"Night Visiting Song" (no birds, no waking father) and very nice, too.

Carthy only gives his two sources, Mary O'Connor of Wexford and Deirdre MacLennan of Inversess.

Mary mourns for her William who went to sea and didn't come home. He knocks her up one night but his "cherry cheeks were as white as snow" and he admits to being a ghost. At dawn he says he must go. But he's sad. The first & last verse has him gone on a tender off across the Bay of Biscay, Oh and gone seven years. She's sad too.

Any knowledge of this?


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Subject: RE: Help: Bay of Biscay - My Willie Sails
From: GUEST,sophocleese on another computer
Date: 02 Sep 00 - 04:55 PM

Hilary James sings this one as well but as I;m visiting I haven't got the CD here in front of me. I'll check it out when I get home.


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Subject: RE: Help: Bay of Biscay - My Willie Sails
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 02 Sep 00 - 06:21 PM

I'm working on the cross-references for the "Penguin Book" Grey Cock at the moment and still have things to look up, but this one really does seem to fall into a sub-group of its own, as John said earlier, deriving from Child #77 rather than #248.  There are some broadside copies at  Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads;  here is one:

Willy O!  Printed c.1867 by W.Birmingham of Dublin.

Malcolm


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Subject: RE: Help: Bay of Biscay - My Willie Sails
From: GUEST,Declan
Date: 07 Mar 02 - 07:46 AM

Anyone know of a version of this song where Willie is in the East rather than the West Indies? I remember my late father telling me once that his mother (who I never met) used to sing this and he was sure that her version had a line about the East Injies in it. I've just started to sing this song and I'd like to include some verses from my Grandmother's version if I could. She wasn't a well known singer and as far as I know was never recorded or had songs collected from her. She came from a place called Bellurgan in North-East Co Louth, not far from the border with South Armagh (as the helicopter flies!). Anyone know of any versions of the song collected in that area ?


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Subject: RE: Help: Bay of Biscay - My Willie Sails
From: Charley Noble
Date: 07 Mar 02 - 02:11 PM

All these songs of drown Willie ending up at his love's door reminds me of the old Maine story of the fisherman's wife who is awoken one night to find a group of her neighbors at her door, all with glum faces. "Is it that Willie's drown?" she asks. "Yep," they reply, "Drown dead." And they kind of part and there lies Wllie on the cellar door covered with seaweed, crabs, and one fat lobster clinging to his ear. "Well, don't just stand there," she says, "Strip off the take and set 'im again."

Roll & Go's never been able to sing this kind of song without someone giggling in appropriately...


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Subject: RE: Help: Bay of Biscay - My Willie Sails
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 07 Mar 02 - 06:15 PM

Declan

I've just spotted the attribution above, crediting Norma Waterson's version to "Mary O'Connor of Wexford". I think at the time she learned it, Mary (who now lives in Watford and comes to the Herga Folk Club) was Mary Hinds, from Tipperary / Offaly.

Kitty


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Subject: RE: Help: Bay of Biscay - My Willie Sails
From: GUEST,MAG at work
Date: 08 Mar 02 - 11:25 AM

I learned this at a Boys o t Loch workshop many years ago. They've recorded it, too.


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