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The Female Sailor
(Laws N12; Roud 231)
Pat MacNamara
Kilshanny, near Ennistymon
Recorded in Considine’s Bar, Kilshanny, August 1975

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

Pat McNamara

And I am a little girl now that is in love, sure, and no-one know my pain,
I hadn’t in the world but one true love and Jamie was his name,
And if I don’t chance to find him, sure I’ll mourn right constantly,
For it’s all for the sake of Jimmy now I’ll cross that raging sea.

And I’ll cut off my yellow locks and a soldier’s suit put on,
Just like a gallant sailor, sure, the roads I’ll march along,
And if I don’t chance for to find him, sure I’ll mourn until I die,
For it’s all for the sake of Jimmy dear I’ll cross that raging sea.

Now it being of a Sunday evening, sure, as we were going to bed,
A meeting with the captain, with him we did do well,
Our meeting with the captain, oh, with him we did agree,
For to be his loyal comrades to the lands of liberty.

Now it being a few days after, sure as we had reached near shore,
The captain smiled and shook his head, saying, 'I wish you were a maid to me.
For your rosy cheeks and ruby lips now they are enticing me,
Then I wish to God, you sailor boy, oh, you were a maid to me.'

'Oh, hold your tongue dear captain, now your talk is all in vain,
For if the rest of the sailors came to hear, oh, they’d laugh and make great game.
For a sailor I was once on board, but now I’m a maid on shore,
Saying adieu, adieu, sweet captain, now adieu for evermore.'

'Then return, return, my pretty little girl, and sail once more with me,
For I have a handsome portion, sure, I’ll give it all to thee,
Likewise I have ten thousand pounds and a joint that I’ll buy for thee,
Oh, return, return, my pretty little girl, and sail once more with me.'

'Sure, I hadn’t in the world, sure, but one true love, now, and Jimmy was his name.'
And hardly those words had escaped my lips but my Jimmy appeared to me.


“There are several documented accounts of women disguising themselves as men and serving on board ship - sometimes for a great length of time - and a number of songs on the subject. One account tells of a woman who served most of her life under sail and, never having been found out, retired and became an innkeeper in one of the South of England seaport towns. In the oral tradition, some women weren’t so lucky; in the song ‘The Handsome Cabin Boy’ the heroine ends up pregnant and the captain says to his wife;
‘It’s either you or me betrayed the handsome cabin boy.’

Mikey’s version is similar to the one recorded from Mrs Cecilia Costello of Galway parentage, but living in Birmingham; it is also virtually the same as the one we recorded from travelling woman Katey Dooley (neé McCarthy) from Caherciveen, Co. Kerry.”

Seven Songs recorded by the BBC from Mrs Costello of Birmingham in Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, 1953.
The Songs of Elizabeth Cronin, Dáibhi Ó Cróinín.
Ballads and Sea Songs of Newfoundland, E.B. Greenleaf & G.R. Mansfield.
Jim Carroll

See also
The Female Cabinboy sung by Mikey Kelleher

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