Sea Shanty

A folk song that was designed to accompany labour on board merchant sailing ships, with the rhythm often matching the motion of the work. They more or less died out after the advent of steamboats, but their influence can be heard on modern bands like The Pogues or Tom Waits.

I sort of admit, I just wanted to blow off a bit of steam (no pun intended) here.

Let’s give it a go!
/ ˘ ˘ ˘ / /

˘ / ˘, ˘ / ˘

/ ˘ ˘ ˘ / /

˘ / ˘ / /


Sing, you little bastards

of Charley, of Charley

Sing, you little bastards

of Charley MacGraw


In docks of far cities

She'd smoke and look pretty,

Leaving her lipstick

On filters of fags

The sea was her darling

Her temper alarming

Whether or not she

Was still on the rag!

If you travel to her town

And don't let your hair down

Buy her a lager

She'll give you a shag!


Sing, you little bastards

of Charley, of Charley

Sing, you little bastards

of Charley MacGraw


If our song sounds too coarse

About this auld war horse

Go ask about her

In pubs near the bay

Most girls'll get frisky

At one or two whiskies

Or at the jingle

Of a dock worker's pay

But if you're in rehab

Buy Charley a kebab

And soon you'll be soaked

In her vaginal spray


Sing, you little bastards

of Charley, of Charley

Sing, you little bastards

of Charley MacGraw


Infusions of barley

They suit our young Charley

Likewise the vodka

They sell in Tesco

A rental of Con-Air

And buy her a Donner

Soon you'll both be

Dining alfresco

Next time you're down that lane

And you need your balls drained

Flag down a taxi:

To Charley's, let's go!”


Sing, you little bastards

of Charley, of Charley

Sing, you little bastards

of Charley MacGraw

Sing, you little bastards

of Charley, of Charley

Sing, you little bastards

of Charley MacGraw

Laurence Thompson, 18/12/11

A pub right down on the Liverpool docks I used to drink in. I remember one time, when the whole city was frozen, practically crawling along the ice to get there with only the warming thought of whisky keeping me going.

Closing thoughts

I probably like this a lot more than I should. I wasn't just thinking of sea shanties that I knew when I wrote this, but also Irish pub songs and that sort of thing. As can be seen by the scansion markings above, I had the tune in my head early on and worked out the metre of the chorus before I even knew the subject matter.

I thought a loose, pretty woman was as good a topic as any, it's the sort of thing that would keep me warm if I was away at sea. It's probably more humiliating than I wanted it to be, however, so I've given it an ironic title in the anthology.

I actually think it's less misogynistic than Evening Queen, in a weird way. At least you can more or less imagine Charley McGraw as a real person and not some abstracted Nick Cave-esque femme fatale Goth wank fantasy figure. She doesn't fall into the bullshit whore-with-a-heart-of-gold stock character either – she just likes booze and kebabs, and shagging. Nothing wrong with that. Oh, and Nicholas Cage films, but I'll forgive her.

I don't know if it works on the flat page. It really, really should be sung, by a lovely, generous singer who will make up for the failures in metre.

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2 thoughts on “Sea Shanty

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