Hugill says that this originated as a 17th Century English ballad, but was often sung at the pumps. He has also heard it sung as a version of “Can’t You Dance the Polka”. The Weavers cleaned it up and had a 1950 hit with “the Roving Kind”. The late Guy Mitchell also recorded it and got to number 4 in the charts! The original is sometimes known as “The Pirate Ship”.
As I stepped out one evening upon a night's career,
I spied a lofty clipper ship and after her I steered.
I hoisted up my sig-in-als which she so quickly knew,
And when she seen my sig-in-als fly, she immediately hove to.
She had a dark and a rovin' eye,
And her hair hung down in ring-a-lets.
She was a nice girl, a (dacint) proper girl,
But one of the rakish kind.
Oh, sailor, please excuse me for being out so late,
But if my parents knew of it, oh, sad would be my fate.
My father is a minister, a good and honest man.
My mother is a Methodist; I do the best I can.
I eyed that girl both up and down for I'd heard such talk before,
And when she moored herself to me, I knew she was a whore.
But still she was a pretty girl; she shyly hung her head.
``I'll go along with you, my lad,'' this to me she said.
I took her to a nice hotel; I knew she wouldn't mind.
But little did I ever think she was one of the rakish kind.
I (handled her, I dandled her)(played with her for quite some time),
and learned to my surprise,
She was nothing but a fire ship rigged up in a disquise.
So up the stairs and into bed I took that maiden fair.
I fired off my cannon into her thatch of hair.
I fired off a broadside until my shot was spent,
Then rammed that fire ship's waterline until my ram was bent.
Then in the morning she was gone; my money was gone too.
My clothes she'd hocked; my watch she stole; my sea bag was
But she'd left behind a souvenir, I'd have you all to know,
And in nine days, to my surprise, there was fire down below.
Now all you jolly sailormen who sail upon the sea
From England to Amerikay take warning now from me.
Beware of (them there) (lofty) fire ships, they'll be the ruin of you.
They'll empty out your shot locker and pick your pocket too.
('Twas there I had me mizzen sprung, and me strong box broke