Handsome Cabin Boy

A popular broadside ballad of shipboard carryings-on. Sung by Louis Killen (among others) whose version derives from that sung by one of the greatest ballad singers of all times, Jeannie Robertson of Aberdeen.

 

The Handsome Cabin Boy

 
It's of a pretty female as you shall understand
Her had a mind for roving unto some foreign land
Attired in sailor’s clothing she boldly did appear
And engaged her with the captain to serve him for a year
And engaged her with the captain to serve him for a year

She engaged with the captain a cabin boy to be
The wind it was in favour so they put out to sea
The captain's lady being on board, she seemed in great joy
So glad her husband had engaged the handsome cabin boy
So glad her husband had engaged the handsome cabin boy

Her lips they were like roses, her hair all in a curl
The sailors often smiled and said, "she looks just like a girl"
But eating captain's biscuits, her colour did destroy
And the waist did swell of pretty Nell, the handsome cabin boy
And the waist did swell of pretty Nell, the handsome cabin boy

Twas in the Bay of Biscay, our gallant ship did plough
One night among the sailors there was an awful row
They tumbled from their hammocks, for sleep it did destroy
They swore about the groaning of the handsome cabin boy
They swore about the groaning of the handsome cabin boy

"Oh doctor, dear, oh doctor", the cabin boy did cry
"My time has come, I am undone, and surely I must die"
The doctor came a-runnin', and smilin' at the fun
For to think a sailor lad should have a daughter or a son
For to think a sailor lad should have a daughter or a son

The sailors, when they saw the joke, they all did stand and stare
This child belongs to none of us”, they solemnly did swear
The captain's wife she says to him "My dear I wish you joy
For it's either you or me's betrayed the handsome cabin boy"
For it's either you or me's betrayed the handsome cabin boy"

So each man took his tot of rum, and drunk success to trade
And likewise to the cabin boy, who was neither man nor maid
"Here's hoping wars don't rise again, our sailors to destroy
And here's hoping for a jolly lot more like the handsome cabin boy"