santa cruz wharf

04 March 2007

Manic Monday with Mo ~ "Blow" The Man Down

History of “Blow the Man” down below the lyrics (smile)

Come all ye young fellows that follow the sea,
to my way haye, blow the man down,
And pray pay attention and listen to me,
Give me some time to blow the man down.

I'm a deep water sailor just in from Hong Kong,
to my way haye, blow the man down,
if you'll give me some grog, I'll sing you a song,
Give me some time to blow the man down.

'Twas on a Black Baller I first served my time,
to my way haye, blow the man down,
And on that Black Baller I wasted my prime,
Give me some time to blow the man down.

'Tis when a Black Baller's preparing for sea
to my way haye, blow the man down,
You'd split your sides laughing

at the sights that you see.
Give me some time to blow the man down.

With the tinkers and tailors and soljers and all
to my way haye, blow the man down,
That ship for prime seaman on board a Black Ball.
Give me some time to blow the man down.

'Tis when a Black Baller is clear of the land,
to my way haye, blow the man down,
Our Boatswain then gives us the word of command
Give me some time to blow the man down.

"Lay aft," is the cry,"to the break of the Poop!
to my way haye, blow the man down,
Or I'll help you along with the toe of my boot!"
Give me some time to blow the man down.

'Tis larboard and starboard on the deck you will sprawl,
to my way haye, blow the man down,
For "Kicking Jack" Williams commands the Black Ball.
Give me some time to blow the man down.

Pay attention to order, now you one and all,
to my way haye, blow the man down,
For right there above you flies the Black Ball.
Give me some time to blow the man down.

The following excerpts where taken from a wide variety of resources all in the public domain. Words which caught my attention in addition to “blow” were: knock, man down, blowers, swallow, tail, ball, seaman (either spelling works)…yeah I’m just gonna stop there.

Blow the Man Down originated in the Western Ocean sailing ships. The tune could have originated with German emigrants, but it is more likely derived from an African-American song Knock a Man Down. Blow the Man Down was originally a halyard shanty. Western Ocean Law was Rule with a Fist. "Blow" refers to knocking a man down with fist, belaying pin or capstan bar. Chief Mates in Western Ocean ships were known as "blowers," second mates as "strikers" and third mates as "greasers."

This variant is of The Black Ball Line which was founded by a group of Quakers in 1818. It was the first line to take passengers on a regular basis, sailing from New York, Boston and Philadelphia on the first and sixteenth of each month. The Blackball flag was a crimson swallow-tail flag with a black ball. The Black Ballers were fast packet ships of the American Black Ball Line that sailed between New York and Liverpool in the second half of the nineteenth century. A sailor would arrive in America within four weeks of leaving England, and the return trip was usually less than three weeks. The faster the ship, the quicker a sailor would get paid, and the quicker he would be back to England, so naturally many sailors wanted to sail on the Black Ballers.

Sea life in those days was ruled by the whip, and the captains of the Black Ballers had a reputation for being particularly brutal. When a sailor said that a man was blown down, it meant that he was knocked to the ground. Blow th' Man Down is a song about the unfair beating of sailors aboard these ships. The ships were famous for their fast passage and excellent seamanship. However, they were also famed for their fighting mates and the brutal treatment of seamen. (Western Ocean seamen were called "Packet Rats"). Many ships bore the name "bloodboat." Most of the seamen hailed from New York or were Liverpool-Irish.

By 1880 the sailing ships were being replaced by steamers and the packets entered other trades or were sold.

Hey Sailor….

11 comments:

Gattina said...

OMG, it's 6 am here and I already have to knock a man down ?? Please let me have some coffee first !

Imma ( Alice) said...

Well, blow me down. I also thought of that old song "Blow The Man Down", but didn't use it, haha. There were a few other things I didn't use either {big grin}. Come see how I did blow off Manic Monday.
:o)

AMAZING GRACIE said...

Now, that was interesting! I love reading about how things came to be. (Gattina needs some coffee...funny lady)

Crazy Working Mom said...

Hey Sailor!
Great background story although I have never heard that song.

Chris said...

Wow. Talk about a mine of information!

That was cool, thanks.

A.J.Reams said...

Love the background story. Well done!

Jamie said...

Whatever the origins, these wonderful sea chanteys were used as work songs. So whether it is reefing sails, pounding cloth, or busting rocks on the chain gangs, they make work easier.

Skittles said...

Great post and well researched with just a hint of naughtiness :)

Morgen said...

Yo Ho Ho Blow Mo Down!
This was great - I love all things nautical, especially history.
cheers,
Manic Mo

Meloncutter said...

I hear great minds think alike.

Later Y'all

Mel said...

ROFL at gattina's comment.