Blow Boys, Blow
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

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According to Doerflinger, there are versions of this halyard shanty which recall the China trade, the Gineau trade (the slave trade) and the North Atlantic packet trade.* Hugill states that while some scholars believe the shanty originated in the slave trade, he feels it started in the Packet trade, circa 1813.**

The words of this version are from Joanna Colcord. Doerflinger notes the captain is said to be "Bully Hayes, the Down East bucko." Captain Hayes commanded the Rainbow, a clipper ship which was lost in 1848.

Packets were so-called because they carried mail from Britain to America. Prior to 1818 ships waited in port until they had a full cargo of goods and passengers to sail. The Blackball line was the first to begin scheduled, regular service. The packet ships were noted for their speed and discipline. The discipline was brutally enforced and packet ships were famed for their fighting mates and the brutal treatment of seamen. Many ships bore the name "bloodboat."

A Yankee ship came down the river
Blow, boys, blow!
Her masts and spars they shone like silver
Blow my bully boys blow!

How do you know she's a Yankee liner?
Blow, boys, blow!
The Stars and Stripes float out behind her.
Blow my bully boys blow!

How do you know she's a Yankee packet?
Blow, boys, blow!
They fired a gun, I heard the racket
Blow my bully boys blow!

And who d'you think is the captain of her?
Blow, boys, blow!
Why, Bully Hayes is the captain of her.
Blow my bully boys blow!

Oh, Bully Hayes, he loves us sailors;
Blow, boys, blow!
Yes, he does like hell and blazes!
Blow my bully boys blow!

And who d'you think is the mate aboard her:
Blow, boys, blow!
Santander James is the mate aboard her.
Blow my bully boys blow!

Santander James, he's a rocket from hell, boys,
Blow, boys, blow!
He'll ride you down as you ride the spanker.
Blow my bully boys blow!

And what d'you think they've got for dinner?
Blow, boys, blow!
Pickled eels' feet and bullock's liver.
Blow my bully boys blow!

Then blow, my bullies, all together,
Blow, boys, blow!
Blow, my boys, for better weather.
Blow my bully boys blow!

Blow, boys, blow, the sun's drawing water;
Blow, boys, blow!
Three cheers for tlhe cook and one for his daughter.
Blow my bully boys blow!

A Yankee ship on the Congo River,
Blow, boys, blow!
Her masts they bend and her sails they shiver.
Blow my bully boys blow!

Related Links
From Fifty Sailor's Songs or Chanties,
*Songs of the Sailor and Lumberman and
**Shanties from the Seven Seas
See Bibliography for full information.