The Loss of the Royal George

Chris Coe & Annie Dearman: On Autumn Harvest ah010: Old Songs & Bothy Ballads: Hurrah Boys Hurrah! Live from the Fife Traditional Singing Festival May 2010.

This rare song survival is from the repertoire of Sussex singer Gordon Hall. In 1910 Ralph Vaughan Williams noted down The Royal George from fisherman Robert Hurr in Southwold Suffolk and, recently, Steve Roud was sent a fragmentary version called Bold Gibraltar from Douglas Dowdy at Curdridge, Hampshire (Roud 2529).

HMS Royal George was a 100-gun first-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, built at Woolwich Dockyard and launched on 18 February 1756. She was present at the battle of Quiberon Bay and the 1780 Battle of Cape St Vincent (known as the ‘Moonlight battle’) under Admiral Rodney. However, disaster struck while at anchor near Portsmouth when plumbers and shipwrights came aboard to begin work on a cistern pipe to provide water for the washing decks. To do this, a hole needed to be bored into the side and the carpenter requested for the ship to be heeled - leant slightly to one side - and orders were given for the lower deck larboard guns to be run out and the starboard guns pulled back to the combings. Unfortunately this did got give a sufficient heel and the ship began to settle in the water. The guns were ordered to be run in and the weather side guns run out in order to right the ship but, minutes later, the ship sank with no warning with the loss of more than 800 lives.

1: As we set sail from the rock of Gibraltar,
As we set sail for sweet Dublin Bay,
Little did we think of our sad misfortune,
A-sleeping in the briny sea;
Oh little did we think of our sad misfortune,
A-sleeping in the briny sea.

2: There was one poor woman a living in the city,
As soon as she heard that a man was dead;
It filled her poor heart with a pain and a-grieving,
Now hear what that poor woman said;
Oh it filled her poor heart with a pain and a-grieving,
Now hear what that poor woman said.

3: "I'll go and seek for my own true lover,
I'll go and sail the wide world around;
And if my own true lover I do not discover,
All in some salt seas I will drown;
And if my own true lover I do not discover,
All in some salt seas I will drown.

4: As we set sail from the rock of Gibraltar,
As we set sail for sweet Dublin Bay.

c p 2011 Autumn Harvest : www.springthyme.co.uk