Author Topic: Add: Admiral Benbow


Posted - 06 Nov 02 - 02:07 pm

Admiral Benbow

Come all you seamen bold and draw near, and draw near,
Come all you seamen bold and draw near,
It's of an admiral's fame, O brave Benbow was his name
How he fought all on the main, you shall hear, you shall hear

Brave Benbow he set sail for to fight, for to fight
Brave Benbow he set sail for to fight
Brave Benbow he set sail with a fine and pleasent gale
But his Captains they turned tail in a fright, in a fright

Says Kirby unto Wade: We will run, we will run
Says Kirby unto Wade: We will run
For I value no disgrace, nor the losing of my place
But the enemy I won't face nor his guns, nor his guns.

The Ruby and Benbow fought the French, fought the French,
The Ruby and Benbow fought the French.
They fought them up and down, till the blood came trickling down
Till the blood came trickling down where they lay, where they lay.

Brave Benbow lost his legs by chainshot, by chainshot,
Brave Benbow lost his legs by chainshot
Brave Benbow lost his legs And on his stumps he begs
Fight on my English lads, 'tis our lot, 'tis our lot

The sugeon dress'd his wounds, cries Benbow, cries Benbow,
The surgeon dress his wounds, cries Benbow:
Let a cradle now in haste, on the quarterdeck be placed
That the enemy I may face, till I die, till I die

Source: One Hundred English Folksongs, Ed C Sharp, ISBN 0-486-23192-5


Cecil Sharp wrote:

CHAPPELL(Popular Music of the Olden Time, volume ii, pp. 642 and 678) gives two versions of this ballad. The first of these is entirely different from that given in the text; but the words of the second version. which are taken from Halliwell's Early Naval Ballads of England, are substantially the same, though set to a different air. The air "Marrinys yn Tiger," in Mr. Gill's Manx National Songs (P. 4), is a variant of our tune. Messrs. Kidson and Moffat publish a variant of the first of Chappell's versions in Minstrelsy of England(p. 25) with an instructive note. See also Ashton's Real Sailor Songs (p. 19).
John Benbow (1653-1702) was the son of a tanner at Shrewsbury. He was apprenticed to a butcher, from whose shop he ran away to sea. He entered the navy and rose rapidly to high command. The ballad is concerned with his engagement with the French fleet, under Du Casse, off the West Indies, August 19-24,1702. The English force consisted of seven ships, of from fifty to seventy guns. Benbow's ship was the Breda. Captain Walton of the Ruby was the only one of his captains to stand by him; the rest shirked. The Ruby was disabled on August 23, and left for Port Royal. Shortly afterwards Benbow's right leg was shattered by a chain shot. After his wound was dressed, he insisted on being carried up to the quarter-deck, as narrated in the ballad. On the following day, his captains, headed by Captain Kirkby of the Defiance, came on board and urged him to discontinue the chase. This they compelled him to do, and he returned to Jamaica, where he at once ordered a court-martial. Captains Kirkby and Wade were sentenced to be shot; Vincent and Fogg were suspended; while Captain Hudson of the Pendennis died before the trial. Kirkby and Wade were executed on board the Bristol, in Plymouth Sound, on April 16, 1703. Admiral Benbow succumbed to his wounds November 4, 170'2, at Port Royal, and was buried at Kingston. His portrait is, or was, in the Painted Hall, Greenwich, to which it was presented by George IV. Mr. Ashton states that there is a tradition "that his body was brought to England and buried in DeptfordChurch."
It is a little difficult to account for the popularity Benbow excited. Personally brave he certainly was; but he has been described as "an honest rough seaman," who, it is alleged, treated his inferiors with scant courtesy. Their failure to stand by him in the French fight was, of course, a disgraceful act of cowardice; but it may also be attributed, to some extent, to their want of personal regard for their chief.

Related Songs:
Captain Kid's Farewell to the Seas
Davy Lowston
Death of Admiral Benbow

Database entry is here

Edited By dmcg - 11/6/2002 2:11:06 PM

Edited By dmcg - 11/9/2002 10:48:44 AM


Posted - 03 Jun 03 - 07:14 pm

The version I've always sung has a couple of extra verses:

And there bold Benbow lay, crying out, crying out;
And there bold Benbow lay, crying out:
"Let us tack about once more, let us drive them to the shore
For I value not a score nor their noise, nor their noise."

On Tuesday morning last, Benbow died, Benbow died;
On Tuesday morning last, Benbow died.
What a terrible sight to see when they carried him away -
They carried him to Se'mston Church, there he lays, there he lays.

This is from the Copper Family; Se'mston is (I think) Selmesdon, a village in Sussex, not far from Rottingdean. (Although I can't find it on Multimap). He was, in fact, buried in Kingston, Jamica shortly after the battle, as in the other song.



Abby Sale

Posted - 03 Jun 03 - 09:11 pm

Schantieman: I haven't seen your first verse before but I think the second is a fairly common one. But there's a terrible problem...

According to Roy Palmer in _Oxford Book of Sea Songs_, this version was written very shortly after Benbow died. Memory of the events were still fresh. Ever seeking total accuracy for the Happy! file, I looked up the date. It seems that November 4, 1702 was a Saturday, not a Tuesday. Oh well.

Sharp's comments seem a bit off. The last line seems to me to attempt some excuse for them. Benbow was a hero and an idol for the common folk. Not all that many went through the ranks to become admirals. Or captains. (Some, like Bligh, didn't succeed that well.)

This has been called "the most disgraceful episode in English naval history." The Admiralty seems to have taken it seriously, too. Executing two captains on a charge of mutiny must be fairly unusual.

Great song.


Posted - 04 Jun 03 - 02:30 am

I learned this version from a Paul Clayton LP. Kendall has pointed out numerous errors in Clayton's lyrics so keep that in mind.

'Tis of an Admiral brave and Benbow was his name
He fought on the raging main, you shall know.
Oh the ship rocked up and down
While the shots were flying 'round
And the enemy falling down,
There they lay; there they lay
(repeat from "The ship rocked...)

Twas Reuben and Benbow fought the French, fought the French
It was Reuben and Benbow fought the French
When on his old stump he fell
And so loudly he did call
"Fight you on my British lads
Tis my lot; tis my lot.
(repeat from "When on his...)

When the doctor dressed his wounds, Benbow cried, Benbow cried
When the doctor dressed his wounds, Benbow cried
"Let a bed be brought in haste
On the quarterdeck be placed
That the enemy I might face
Til I die; til I die.
(repeat from "Let a bed...)

On Tuesday morning last Benbow died, Benbow died
On Tuesday morning last Benbow died.
What a shocking sight to see
When Benbow was carried away
He was carried to Kingston church.
There he lay; there he lay.
(repeat from "What a shocking sight...)


Posted - 04 Jun 03 - 01:35 pm

Abby, does that take acount of the missing 11 days when Brtitain adopted the Gregorian Calendar later in the 18th century?


Posted - 04 Jun 03 - 01:50 pm

Ah, no, but Saturday doesn't scan!

According to Doug & Sue Hudson (Tundra) Benbow (presumably before this) was in the habit of firing off a cannon in his garden at Greenwich at noon every day. His neighbours weren't too keen on the holes in the hedge, took him to court and obtained an injunction to stop him doing it. Apparently.

What may have more truth to it is the story that John Benbow's grandfather was also an Admiral but got defrocked in the Civil War. Otherwise young John would've joined the Navy as a young gentleman rather than a seaman. How the intervening Benbow came to be a tanner, I know not. As Spike Milligan might have said, 'Everbody got to do something'!




Posted - 04 Jun 03 - 01:59 pm

...and Bligh, although a harsh disciplinarian was an excellent navigator (he navigated the Bounty's boat some ridiculous distance across the ocean) and a successful captian. He commanded a ship at one of Nelson's battles, Copenhagen (1801) I think.




Posted - 04 Jun 03 - 02:41 pm

..or even a successful captain (!)



Abby Sale

Posted - 04 Jun 03 - 09:37 pm

Oh, I got nothing against Bligh. Briliant seaman, as you say and probably a far better, keener observer of island ways than his idol, Cook. Bligh set out to learn native languages, record their habits and deal with them fairly. The Pircairn bunch weren't so nice and Cook was so arrogant he was slaughtered and (at least in Hawaiian tradition) eaten by them. [This leads to my altogether favorite "happy?" entry: "Cook cooked & eaten in a Sandwich, 2/14/1779."]

Bligh's notes are still used by anthropologists. I've heard his real flaw was very poor judgement of men and choice of assistants. This led to his being the butt of _three_ mutinies, not just the famous one. Character flaw, bad luck and a very bad press.

Phil Taylor

Posted - 05 Jun 03 - 01:34 am

It is said that when the young Benbow absconded from his apprenticeship he locked the butcher and his wife in the shop. Being a kind hearted sort of chap, he refrained from chucking the key into the river Severn across the road, but instead hung it on a nail in a tree outside the shop. The site of the former butchers shop is now occupied by a pub called The London Apprentice, and outside it there is a glass case holding a section of oak bark with a big iron key hanging on a nail. We are invited to believe that this is the actual key...


Posted - 05 Jun 03 - 01:45 am

Bob Copper told me that his Grandfather (or it might have been his Dad) went to Kingston (a village about 10 miles from his home in Rottingdean) one day.
He searched the churchyard but couldn't find Benbow's grave anywhere. He thought he must be buried further away than that so "moved" the burial site to Selmeston about 20 miles from Rottingdean.
He never went there, it was too far to travel there and back in one day so reckoned no-one would check up on him.

Abby Sale

Posted - 05 Jun 03 - 02:25 am

Snuffy: Reasonable question. Julian 4th November, 1702 was a Wednesday.

vectis: Good story. I like it. Such is the folk process. Surprising he wouldn't know of Kingston, Jamaica, though.

Guest Account
Posted - 15 Oct 06 - 10:34 pm

From: frank

it was nice to see this song again. When i was at junior school in 1957 we sang lots of sea shantys. They where very rousing and we all had a great time.Pity they don,t still sing from the same books.

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