Lympstone Village Concert

Easter Saturday, 15th daie of April, year of grace 2023
Ancient Port of Lympstone, ye Village Hall.
Wind:- S veering W, f.3
Weather:- Fair & pleasant springtime breeze

Like proper sailors, the crew of the Malarkey hoisted their main canvas, now complete with studding sails, instantly transforming the village hall into a square-riggers deck, plus mast & ratlines.  Billy, bidding farewell with gale-force vocals, set us on our way with the LEAVING OF LIVERPOOL as our tall ship headed back to sea once more. This log (not enough parchment to mention everyone) notes that EVERY MAN JACK - and ONE WOMAN - sang with gusto, lustily or lyrically. None forgot their words or station, and all navigated successfully between the Scylla of shrieking too high, and the Charybdis of growling too low.  Sixteen shantys later  Wayne the Anchorman sang us safely back up-channel, and the first glimpse of the the Lizard light shining, with a rollicking ROLLING HOME. (The crew previously entered the Guinness book of Records singing the same with about 10,000 Germans plus us - the biggest international crowd singing the same shanty at the same time and place, with almost the same tune and words, ever.)
All change for the Second watch. New canvas hoisted smartly, transforming the hall into a rough sailor's dive, where Helen Highwater, the feisty landlady who would stand no nonsense, welcomed the Buoys back on land, and proved indeed HEAVEN’S A BAR. Tipsy tales of wine, women, song, grog, whales, battles, polka dancing ladies of easy virtue - something to pull everybody’s string.
The Crew warmly thank Lympstone for a full house of all ages, laughter and hospitality,, and their enthusiastic response to each shanty & forebitter - we hope to tack back in future, wind and tide permitting. The evening climaxed with Ship’s Surgeon, Dai Wright’s  WELLERMAN (the ONLY shanty he sings that isn’t about death) - an Encore that had the whole hall singing, clapping, and stamping.

Starcross Fishing and Cruising Club

Twentyfirst day of January, year of Grace 2023
SFCC Clubhouse, Starcross
Wind: var. 1-2
Weather: Brass monkey health warning alert in force. Arctic.

Outside twas a dark and freezing night, but inside Brunel’s Atmospheric Railway Engine House all was warmth & welcome. (The railway failed because mice & rats enticed by the lard lubricant ate the leather flap-valves.) ESM, as is their wont, exercised their own vacuum pumps and flap valves, lubricated by generous free drinks,  then regaled the assembled hoardes with merry spasms of sea songs and shantys. Nice to know that at least some of those present knew the reality of fishing, sailing, navigating, hoisting, handing, reefing, steering, bowsprits, booms, bilges - and having to desperately pump a waterlogged boat, A warmly receptive audience.
Special mention in today's log:-
Sailing Master Sam  Minella, for instantly recruiting and roping in children and adults to heave, haul. stomp the capstan round, and dress up in the crews own scraggy hats for ‘Sam’s gone away’ - hopefully no cases of scrofula, scurvy, or scabies thus passed on to innocent membres of SFCC.
The lovely and ever-tuneful Helen HIghwater with tragical tales of a bereaved lover, and an unlikely Handsome Cabin Boy with a dramatically swelling waist.. (All present swore vociferously it wasn’t them - BUT SEVERAL REGULAR MEMBERS WERE NOTICEABLY ABSENT. The finger points.
The Bosun singing passionately about oars or ‘oars. (Not altogether obvious which, or where he puts his curly quill sometimes.)
Anchorman Wayne wheeling his ghostly barrow of stinking fish further and faster among the audience than ever before.
And  ships topman, Alfredo Heights - his navigationally catastrophic question - if you sail straight down the Exe, where do you get.? (Ans: Aground on a sandbank almost instantly. The Exe’s sinuous winding shallow channel and difficult shifting Bar are notorious.) The answer he wanted was: The South Atlantic - or en route to Old Maui / Hawaii after a year long whaling voyage Alf’s gallant ballad re-lives.

Topsham Folk Club

Fourth day of December, year of grace 2022
St Matthews Hall, port of Topsham, R. Exe
Wind:- E/NE backing N
Weather:- Arctic. (Brass monkey warning alert)

A heaving crowd packed St Matthew’s Hall to the gun’les for a winter all-hands-on-deck Sea Shanty Night. Topsham, once 4th biggest port in Britain after the local Countess blocked access to Exeter with her weir, once again rang with sea songs and shantys. Nearby was the berth where ill-fated HMS Terror was built, her wreckage only recently re-discovered after Franklin’s failed attempt to find the N.W passage. Conditions outside suitably Arctic, but inside, thanks to superb organisation by Topsham Folk Club, there was warmth, welcome, women, ale, (all things to delight a frozen sailor’s heart) and an audience determined to shanty, sing, laugh, and celebrate.

The Foremen (4 men?) quartet shared in fine manly close harmony recent sea songs - especially with today’s urgent quest: how to navigate our polluted seas and overheating planet back on course?

Adrian & Lucy, with John, wove melodious mandolin, lyrical guitar and Lucy’s haunting soprano voice (entrancing as the sirens’ songs that nearly scuppered Ulysses) into tragicall ballads - Henry Martin forced into piracy by poverty. A story that increasingly some are finding prophetic with recent navigational errors and beam-end rolling tacks by the Ship-of-State.

Rather lowering the tone, the Crew of the Malarkey then lurched forrard, clambered atop their sea chests, and let rip with 2 full broadsides of shantys and forebitters - piracy, women, drink, death, sinkings, women, drink, heaving & hauling, grog, Far from shore, surrounded by the Southern Ocean’s endless greybeards (some of the audience too?) songs that spliced together the hard realities of life at sea, sailors’ phantasies, history, hullabaloo and myth. And the flying balls (cast iron not pigs bladder) that changed history on the Plains of Abraham and off Cape Trafalgar, as much as this evening’s flying balls were changing history on the fields of Qatar. (Occasional bulletins on this battle too from Adrian on the quarterdeck. )

The repertoire girdled the world - Greenland whaling, Caribbean stevedoring, the long Cape Horn Australia run ... and many of the audience joined in lustily in one of the most convivial and harmonious evenings the Buoys have enjoyed. The past has a future - Shantys and Forebitters are alive and well in Topsham. The Exmouth Shantymen - and one woman -  the one and only Helen Highwater - offer Season’s Greetings to all who sang along, and hope for successful navigation next year through all the perils, shoals and reefs - social, political, economic, psychological and alcoholic - that currently assail the crew.

Bosun Quill as always finally hauled the crew back to a higher moral plane - “Don’t go sleeping with no W....   get married instead, spend all night in bed,” and Wayne the Anchorman set us staunchly on our homeward-bound way with the international chanty we’ve sung in assorted languages simultaneously with 1000s of Europeans - Rolling Home. And we did.

Ipplepen goes Global

Twentysixth day of November, year of grace 2022
Ipplepen Village Hall
Wind:- SW gale f.8, occ. strong gale f.9
Weather:- continuous rain; impaired visibility; bitter chill.

The Buoys presented a  world-girdling set of shantys recreating a tall-ships ocean voyage, and a roistering night in a sailors tavern that could be anywhere our Empire extends, to raise funds for an Heroic group of Girl Scouts setting off to a Jamboree in sunny North* / sorry, SOUTH Korea.

     [ * The skipper’s navigation is mostly dead reckoning, and the Malarkey’s officers not always as literate and competent as they pretend, and in any square-rigger wind and weather and tide dictate arrival as much as any previous plans.]

Ank launched with an heroic RANDY DANDY, but considering the children and sensitivities of the fair sex in the audience, we muted the ‘randy’ and played up the ‘dandy’ throughout the evening. The Buoys can behave in polite society if necessary, if drink has only been modestly partaken of - too late for Ships Carpenter Cameron Nails tho’, who already was well-Whiskeyed enough to lose his marbles. Bish, bewailing his catastrophic love-life, got no further than a  Gravesend pawn shop. Billy resplendent in borrowed bling - his shore-going rig - rather than impressing the girls, simply choked on his beer, and had to set off to sea again.

Even as the mightily motivated girl scouts prepared to girdle the globe, brave the East`China Sea and cross the Yellow Sea, mutinous members of the Malarkey just wanted to stay at home: Cook Sam Minella, press-ganged and whipped with the tarry strand just wanted to get ashore and go to sea no more; reluctant Levi Shore bewailed that he still hadn’t been paid, Eamon Fyre, now firmly ensconced on shore, relapsed into nostalgia ... just an old clipper man, no longer using his thumbs as fids, or his fingers as marlin spikes. Despite all, young Henry - needing no lessons from Paddy West - signed aboard eagerly as a half-pint crew member.

Other songs did get further. Ship’s sawbones Doc Dai Wright, most melodious and educated of the crew, burst into fluent French with Le Capitaine de San Malo and delivered a mighty  kick - un énorme coup de pied - to the backside of a recalcitrant sailor that Renaldo would have been proud of.

Mal de Mer finally made it to New York, and advised his mates ‘‘don’t ever mess around with girls, you’re safer round Cape Horn’. It was left to tavern keeper and landlady Helen Highwater to relate the cautionary tale of a courageous young woman who did indeed set off to sea, disguised as a man - the Handsome Cabin Boy. What happened to him/her as the ship ploughed across the Bay of Biscay remains a salutary story of which each member of ESM denies all knowledge.

We wish the Ipplepen Girls Scouts safety and success on the trip, and salute in our war torn world, every effort to foster global harmony and understanding. A loud HUZZAH for each and every one of them.

West Country Tour

Four West Country Ports in a Week

SHIP’S LOG: Saturday twentyninth day of October
to Saturday fifth day of November, this year of Grace 2022
WEATHER:  Post-equinocytal gales, tempests  strorms, floods, depressions
occasional sunshine.
WIND: Anticylones, every which way all points of the compass
SEA STATE: Rough or very rough.

Sat 29th. Exmouth Gig Club.
With happy memories of the launch of the Pilot Gig Shelly Maid for which we chortled and sang, we were invited to celebrate Halloween with our good friends, the oarsmen and oarswomen of the club, who recently had hauled their boats and bodies down to Scilly Isles from whence these heroic racing rowing boats originated - first to the ship gets the job. Less trickily, we piloted ourselves into the secret haven of Exmouth’s hidden Police Club for a raucous and melodious Autumn festivity. The gig club rowers and partners, used to pulling together, plied us with strong drink, and joined in shanty and  forebitter lustily and heartily. It’s possible a member from thence may be shanghaied aboard the SS Malarkey. This fortified, ESM wishes Exmouth Gig CLub every success in the coming season, and as we often sing PULL ON, PULL ON & PLY PLY THE OAR, there’s dawn beyond the dark.

Sunday 30th. Dartmouth Rayal Naval College - RNLI Awards Ceremony
Cunningly disguised as innocent civilians, we snuck into the hallowed halls of the Royal Naval College, from whence have issued Empire-building heroes, World-girdling warriors, Arctic explorers, Royal marriages, and young men and women to still help Britannia to rule the waves - as of course we sang. We were there as a FLASH MOB to add a touch of surprise saltiness to the Awards Ceremony and recognition and thanks for the many Volunteers who keep our Royal National Lifeboat Institution boats afloat literally and financially, and were receiving long service awards.

Rather worried our cover stories might be blown if actually cross examined - and what’s your award for?! - we managed to mingle with those who unlike us were thoroughly deserving of recognition, till suddenly in the middle of afternoon tea we leapt from our tables and belted out JOHN KANAKA. The wooden walls, floors and ceiling of the Officers’ Mess, like the wooden walls of old-time warships, provided the most marvelous acoustics we’ve ever known, and shanties from theh great days of sail echoed around the portraits and paintings of Sea Battles and Heros of the past, and over the heads of the present day Heroes and Helpers of the RNLI.

Fortified with generous Naval and Lifeboat hospitality, our second set, now in our normal 18th century seamen’s slops and rig concluded with HEARTS OF OAK, and for the first time for 70 years and 214 days we sang  ... OUR SOLDIERS, OUR SAILORS OUR STATESMEN, OUR KING,  after the death of our late lamented Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeteh the Second, and the Accession of our new monarch, King Charles theThird,
We hope and believe that he, like his predecessor King Chaloes II, will enthusiastically support and develop Britain's Maritime heritage, like his mother be patron of the RNLI, and furthermore, engage thi ssea-girt island nation’s skills and power in the sea-battle engulfing us today - the Battle for our precious Enviromnent, the Land and the Sea and all that dwells therein.

Thursday 3rd Nov. Port of Topsham. Nancy Potter haven.
Topsham, where the ill-fated HMS Erebus was built. Unlike Franklin’s gallant crew, poisoned, hallucinating, and stranded on freezing ice flows, Topsham has created a safe and warm encampment where the the aged, the frail, the lonely and the chilled (in these fuel starved times) can be warmed, fed, and succoured on tea and cake and soup; where frostbitten toes and fingers  can be treated, and there’s the  luxury of a Library to combat the encroaching madness that engulfed Erebus and Terror’s original crews - poisoned by lead solder and rotten canned food.
      We hope we added warmth with a cheerful afternoon’s entertainment, and medicinal doses of gusto like rum rations for the gathered company - and partaking of Topsham’s native and tribal food, none of us (yet) has suffered food poisoning.
      Thank you Nancy Potter, and all who created and serve in this happy haven on the banks of the Exe of what was once Britain’s 4th largest Port.

Guy Fawkes Day, 5th Nov., Bridgwater Carnival.
Finally, close-reefed in headwinds and rain, we headed North to to Bridgwater - Somerset’s only inland port. Safe havens few and far between on the sodden Somerset Levels, where shallow seas regularly encroach and flood fields and farms (Somerset = ‘summer land’ - because  come winter, the waters rise again as in Captain Noah’s day) Further West only tiny tidal harbours cling to cracks in the iron-bound cliffs.
Bridgwater’s the site of the Monmouth Rebellion and England’s last onshore battle. The town celebrates Guy Fawkes with enthusiasm - he had the right idea!? - with an enirmous Carnival with live fire and explosions, and giant illuminated carts as big as Ships-of-the- line, and gaudy and illuminated as 18th century galleons, all lit with 1000s of lanterns.
The statue of local hero Admiral Robert Blake, ranked by many equal to Nelson, was hidden behind barricades, corrugated iron and planking, lest he should be toppled by Bridgwater’s riotous revellers, or ignited by the orgasmic squibbing display of fire that fills the entire town centre and high street at the climax of the festival.

Into this cheerful cydered up mayhem, the Malarkey’s crew were welcomed as street entertainers in the Carnival warm up. Wonderfully, a little girl who remembered the crew from previous years was there, demanding her favourite shanty that she’s been singing all year - TEA AND COFFEE, TEAAND COFFEE, WE’RE” SAILING THE OCEANS FOR TEA AND COFFEE.  Bosun Quill, the composer, and the whole crew, mounted atop sea-chests in the main street, obliged. As a Carnival town it seemed everybody in Bridgwater was quick to join in, young and old, toothless, tipsy, or tiny, sang along, danced, and mirrored our performance actions. In our Angel Plave gig - briefly interrupted by a Brass Band composed entirely of Spidermen, a gallant youngster became the daring litttel cabin-boy, cruelly betrayed by the lying Captain, and who poignantly expired and died on the Golden Vanity’s deck, hurriedly improvised from our sea chests. Virgin Shantyman (not many virgins in Bridgwater) and new Ordinary Seaman OLLY ROGER (bunting tosser) climaxed our three performances with a rip-roaring and rattling DOGGERBANK - SHE”S A PROPER JUBER-JU!

A marvellous week, and the good ship Malarkey sails on, somtimes battered, but always unbowed. We drink SUCESS to her, and all the groups and causes and clubs and lifesavers we’ve been with this rollicking week past.


Twentyfourth day of September, year of grace 2022
Church House Inn, Holne, Dartmoor
Wind:- East’ly, var. f. 2-3
Weather:- The equinox past, a brief & delightful
& unexpected Indian Summer, warm, calm & clement.

The Triple SSS Line.
The crew of the Malarkey, plus fancy women & doxies, hauled themselves inland well beyond the Dart’s limit of navigation even for coracles, never mind square-riggers, and leaving salt-water far behind, ventured past bog and torr  to the tiny moorland hamlet of Holne, hid in the bosomy folds of the hills. The the Buoys had been invited by Tom & Tina, good friends from previous escapades ashore, to celebrate their resurrection, re-launching and embarkation of the previously stranded pub, the Church House Inn.

Tom & Tina, most excellent bakers and cooks, had drawn a goodly crowd of gastrognomes (& full size diners as well) to celebrate their re-opened village inn, all ship-shape & Bristol fashion, with the blessed Trinity of Sausages, Cider, and Shanties.

Foregathered outside, babes-in-arms, sucklings, infants, toddlers, youngsters, hikers, passers-by, grown-ups, and those like ESM of indeterminate years - just count the rings on the trunks. The parents of three year old T...  explained that the very first song she had ever sung was SOUTH AUSTRALIA, and she loved JOHN KANAKA, and THE DRUNKEN SAILOR. Of course we obliged, and duly presented her and other youngsters who helped, hauled and were be-hatted as press-ganged crew during  SAM’S GONE AWAY (sung appropriately by ship’s cook Sam O’ Nella of course) with Half-pint Shanty Crew Member inscribed Certificates. The future of Shantying is in safe hands.

A global audience inside and out - two Canadian families, one camping on the moor, sang gleefully along with Bish’s Newfie ballad Jack was Every Inch a Sailor (no cetaceans actually harmed during the performance)  and Ship’s Surgeon Doc celebrated a French Madame present avec Le Capitaine de Saint-Malo, qu'il a chanté comme d'habitude avec son diapason parfait et son accent exceptionnel. An antipodean first for us, he then launched into Wellerman, where all around tonguing of a different kind was going on delightfully.

Plied with superb comestibles by our hosts, Bosun Quill rather insensitively celebrated our more regular nautical fare - Chicken on a Raft, and boiled babies heads. The agricultural labourers of Holne in their own folk traditions and hey-nonny-noes, may well have trespassed on taboo subjects too, but the buoys, for still an all-age audience, hid  their risqué offerings behind double or triple entendres - as Mal de Mer, well served & parcelled & tarred, related his encounter with The Fireship.

Helen Highwater celebrated our welcoming venue with Heaven’s a Bar, and in the intimacy of the inner bar, demonstrated her Rolling Sailor with more verve and rolling than usually possible. Alfredo Heights, as befitted the international nature of the occasion, let rip with the braw Scots ballad, Bonny Ship the Diamond, and Billy Bowlocks, after fine ranting and roaring of Carribean stevedoring songs, rattled the newly restored rafters of the Church House Inn with a farewell Leaving of Liverpool. This log can heartily commend both Tom & Tina’s Tea Room, and the Church House Inn as wonderful havens for explorers across Dartmoor and travellers by foot or charabanc.

Dartington Arts Centre

Twentyfirst day of August, year of grace 2022
Barn CInema, Dartington, Nr. Totnes
Wind:- S by SE, f. 2/3
Weather:- placid

he Malarkey’s crew were delighted to be invited as the warm up act for the launch of the latest Fisherman‘s Friends magic lantern show. Whether by luck, judgement, or brilliant planning only ONE of the many shantys we sang were repeated by FFs in their latest saga - and full of excellent singing too, including some of our Anchorman’s absolute favourites (!?) which have never yet featured in our public performances.

The movie plot, behind the comedy, gave glimpses of real everyday conflicts and sorrows, bereavement, marriage break ups, and struggles and dangers that real Cornish, or Devonian, fishing, farming, and mining communities face. And the total impossibility of London media moguls imposing trendy political correctness or metropolitan earnest anxious inclusive linguistic politeness on real earthy West Country working rumbustious passionate families - where teasing and cheerful rudeness are a real expression of affection. Tiz true, my lover!

If ESM were put thro’ the same ‘consciousness raising’ workshops we would have to abandon two-thirds of our repertoire. As it was the hip Dartington audience responded warmly to authentic shanties and sea songs from an age when men were men ( and women grateful?!) and in reality Jack Tar’s experience of the ‘weaker sex’ was that they were actually the more powerful  ones, and lonely sailors often taken advantage of - and yarns about catastrophic amorous encounters probably more realistic than the occasional priapic boasts (‘One yellow, one black, one white’) the odd shantyman is prone to. As Mal lamented - ‘You’re safer round Cape Horn’. Lots of our trademark gusto, but also for the first time Bosun Curly Quill sharing the heartrending farewell slavery lament Shallo Brown.

The cinema audience may have thought they were just coming to a movie - 2D pictures flickering on a cloth screen - and may not have expected the extremely three D and well rounded (very well rounded in the case of a couple of the Buoys) performance in the flesh of Shantys - NOT in hi-tech virtual reality, but in that increasingly rare phenomenon today, REAL reality, sweating, breathing, fleshly, and sometimes ecstatic and melodious too.

The return voyage to our home port of Exmouth proved a real slog to windward, slow as a leaky ship with a foul bottom - the spontaneous combustion of a previous vessel blocked the passage for hours, and not till the morrow did some of the crew tumble into their hammocks and bunks. Worse things happen at sea.

Sidmouth Folk Festival

Freya’s Day, ye fifthe day of August, year of grace 2022
Manor Theatre, Sidmouth
Wind:- Variable 2-3
Weather: Unusually tropical: bright warm & dry

Barely clad lovelies gambolled on the beach and in the surf, as fine as any South Sea coral island paradise. Ashore dancers as exotic as any foreign native tribesmen deep sea sailors encounter, stomped and frolicked - some feathered and headressed as finely as North American Indians; others painted, tattooed, and blacked up as mysteriously as Papua New Guinea islanders; others with bells on their fingers, bells on their toes, or brandishing cudgels and clubs, or later burning firbrands, in the vital annual fertility ritual that undergirds the whole festival. The crew of the Malarkey hope their 2 part programme TALL SHIPS AND TAVERN TALES added to the general procreation, pleasure, and pantomime of the whole week’s performance, paradisal and anarchic.

Billy Rowlocks, once tempted to piracy, discovered he can make more of a killing selling pirate bandoliers, buckles, belts, bunting, bi- an tri-corn hats, and portable size skeletons to eager punters, managed to rush from his market stall just in time to launch our Voyage with a rumbustious rendition of The Leaving of Liverpool; followed by rollicking shantys from all the crew. After a necessary grog or ale break for all, the lovely but strict Helen HIgwater welcomed us all to her dockside tavern - as long as there was no spitting or fighting. Not just Tall Ships but tall tales from the buoys, exaggerating their sexual prowess, heroic valour, and tragicall traumas afloat like poor BIlly O’ Shea - hopefully launched to Fiddlers Green in his hammock with a stitch thro’ his nose - ship’s surgeon Doc, as ever, purveyor of ballads of death disaster and dereliction. Bosun Quill managed to re-live our successful homecoming with Spanish Ladies, listing all the headlands and lighthouses between the Scillies and home - and all in the right order! And every man Jack ranted and roarared like true British sailors, and drank up their full bumpers.

The landlady had a story to tell too: the Hansome Cabin Boy, who turned out to be neither man NOR maid! All present in the theatre protested their innocence. Finally after constant repetitions of Last Orders and Time, we were ejected out onto the Sidmouth streets - with our Anchorman urging us to Row On Row On Another Day ... and hope of dawn beyond the dark. A lyrical and emotional climax to an extraordinary voyage

Falmouth International Shanty Festival

The 17th to the 19th daies of June, year of Grace 2022
The Port of Falmouth in the County & Country of Cornwall / Kernow
Wind:- Wight, Portland Plymouth: N.W. Gale force 8, rising f.9 immanent
Weather: - Torrential rain Showers, Lightening strikes likely.

The crew of the Malarkey, sorely diminished by plague & pestilence, but undiminished in gusto, verve, & enthusiasm, rollicked through their opening performance on the Main Skinners Stage in Events Square, with a warm and welcoming crowd joining in. With dire weather warnings and tempest and travail in the offing, the the Buoys were hurriedly hauled aboard and cast off early, to hopefully allow as many shanty crews as possible to sing before the storm struck.

Ancient vessels gathered close by, luggers, gaffers, pilot cutters, assembled for the simultaneous Classics Festival, reefed and battened down as they tugged and jerked their anchor cables or rocked and rolled at pontoons alongside.  The stage shook like a squarerigger round Cape Horn and marquee canvas rattled like gunfire.A totally realistic setting for our enthusiastic sharing of traditional shantys, in conditions increasingly like those they would actually have been used for - rising winds, tacking, bracing, reefing, furling, where the shantyman’s yoick and the crews’ shouted jerk & haul, or stamp & go, essential to enable small crew (plus blocks & tackles) to shift extraordinary weights far beyond their natural strength, and to harness the thousands of horsepower the untamed wind delivers free.

We also shared a song celebrating the the Cornish brewer Skinners, who sponsored the festival, written by erstwhile Exmouth Shanty Man Seymour Cleavage. Bang on cue Betty Stogs herself arrived on stage: a mighty woman, booted, busty, bountiful, hard-drinking - as fesity & tough a Cornish fishwife as any of the sailors & miners who thronged this first and last port of call for global sailing ships. As winds rose some were indeed “feeling green around the gills”, and quite a few “rudders were shuddering” on nearby craft afloat,  but the Buoys and Betty sang on regardless - and hopefully helped fill her bailing bucket with vitally needed provisions to support the local Lifeboat.

Next, outdoors at Five Degrees West we carried on regardless in worsening conditions. Sound engineers fled with their gear, fearing we would all be electrocuted in the rain; sadly main stage Fishermans Friends had to be cancelled because of possible lightening strikes, but ESM carried on undeterred,  a-capella in the teeth of the booming gale and increasingly torrential  rain, for the few heroic punters who stayed. Triple spouts of water shot from tricorn hats; many wonderfull sailor, pirate, good-time girl costumes, basques and  uniforms (the whole town had dressed up, or down, for the occasions) left wearers soaked to the skin like us. And ESMs fading white canvas ship’s slop-chest rags and tatters blended us perfectly with the loyal crowds thronging the streets - and retreating hurriedly indoors to bars and cafes as the storm struck.

Our thanks as always to Falmouth for great hospitality, constant pastys, nautical naughty and lyrical entertainment, and the delight of running into old friends & crews from far & wide, as Shanty Crews gathered for both the vital charity fund raising, and to vitally check out Betty Stogs, and Skinners’ best brews - even if it was hard to keep the rain out of the beer sometimes. We’ll be back.

Lynmouth Regatta

Twentyeighth day of May, year of grace 2022
Lynmouth harbour, N. Devon.
Wind:- W’ly 2/3
Weather:- Pleasant & delightful

A  merry crew from the Malarkey meandered across the moors to the headwaters of the Exe and slalomed down the hairpin helterskelter bends to the tiny rock-girt haven of Lynmouth, famed in the annals of lifeboat history for one of the most heroic and extraordinary boat launches in history: in the great storm of 12 Jan. 1899, the harbour being too rough to launch in, villagers and horses dragged the lifeboat overnight  13 miles up and over Devon/Somerset’s highest headland, Contisbury Hill, to launch Louisa at Porlock, to rescue the stricken 2000 ton full-rigged ship Forrest Hall.
    Something of the same DIY energy, improvizing spirit, and willingness to join in and push and pull was obvious in the Regatta. A proper 8 barred capstan half filled the narrow main street, and volunteers of all ages needed no impressing to join in, or others to sing along as we added appropriate capstan, hauling and stamp and go shanties. The youngest  volunteer half-pint crew member (age 3?), tip-toes barely touching the ground and arms aloft, insisted on pushing her weight, and all around the crowd matched our trade-mark gusto with theirs - the adjacent ale house helping too.
    The spirit of volunteering was alive and well afloat too, as untrained volunteers manned Lynmouth’s 2 pilot gigs, for races more reminiscent of funfair bumper cars than their grandfathers' heroic oarsmanship aboard Louisa, but, thanks be to God, the weather was fair, and the sea smoothish as the huge Bristol Channel tide filled the tiny harbour. Finally, cutting our final set a little short, the climax of the Rergatta, for which bets were placed all afternoon - the SEAGULL RACE. (Seagulls - ancient resurrected antique primitive outboard engines, originally engineered to last only long enough for Dunkirk and back.) A glorious racket as engines failed, Skippers collided and heaved on starter cords (there ought to be a special shanty for that) acrid smoke choked the harbour, oars were brandished to raise another 1/4 knot; various boats set off red distress flares and smokes and white warning pyrotechnics, and a coughing cheering crowd watched agog from quayside and river bridge as the ever changing leaders suddenly stalled or pirouetted, outsiders overtook, and losers finally got engines going as the winners surged under the fluttering bunting line.
    A delicious mini-festival, and a good time was had by all, ESM included.


Betwixt the eighteenth  & twentysecond days of May, year of grace 2022
In on & around Oostende Docks, Belgium.

Wednesday 18th: Wind: var. lf.1-2  Weather: Fine & clear
ALL ABOARD SV ARTEMIS: Beer, Bunks, & vertical gangplanks.
The buoys were welcomed aboard the fine 3 masted barque Artemis, one time Whale ship, and accommodated in the hold that once contained tons of blubber, barrels of oil & spermaceti, now converted into luxury cabins. Concerning what excess quantities of blubber each carried, or how well oiled we were, this log remains silent. The young fit handsome crew (as befits a clipper bowed ship named for a Greek Goddess) assisted us down the near vertical gangplanks, as the tide fell, and on each berth a small pile not of ducats or doubloons or even euros or sterling, but mysterious blue disks which the natives of this island use as barter for their own ceremonial potions, distillates, and most excellent and copious brews.Thus fortified, we dined ashore, and, by request, blasted a few chanties across the spaghetti and fish soups that other diners were quietly enjoying.

Thursday 19th: Wind: W’ly f 3-4. Weather: Precipitation early, fine later.
Even louder than Billy’s Leaving of Liverpool, our opening sets were punctuated by the double-bass roars, wails, hoots & honks of dozens of ship’s horns welcoming each new tall ship to the festival. All around happy crowds, and craft's-men, shipwrights, fish-smokers, carpenters, stripey-shirt and slops sellers, model-makers, weavers & spinners, mead-makers, plied their trades and wares, while the distinctive round-bosomed Tjalks and Botters and Boiers crammed and snuggled into the inner harbour, demonstrating a low-countries maritime heritage rivalling (tho’ we might be loath to admit it) Britannia's. Many British boats too had joined the festival including historic launches and little ships that had been part of ‘Operation Dynamo’, the  ‘miracle’ of the Dunkirk Evacuation. Veteran soldiers and sailors from the UK joined with their Belgian comrades in celebrating the festival. The crew of the Malarkey, as is their wont, managed to recruit willing (or incomprehending) volunteers to act out capstan and halliard and bracing shanties, as full-voiced Sam Minella belted out Little Sally Racket and Santee Anna on the quayside.

Friday 20th: Wind: W/NW f.6-gale 8. Weather: Horizontal freezing rain. 
The glass had fallen all night, & the forecast Storm struck at the precise moment we were billed aboard the Main Stage in the shadow of Oostend’s magnificent Gothik Cathedral. Torrential rain like Cape Horn waves blown sideways soaked the buoys to the skin and the stage too. (As you wallop around Cope Horn, you’ll wish to God you'd never been born ... ) Ferocious Gusts sent chairs skittering across the town square, and capsized them in puddles. Surrounding stalls desperately tried to batten down their hatches. The sound engineer's tent began to levitate and take off with four helpers hanging on to the legs; and about 2 dozen heroic punters huddled in distant doorways applauded as the Malarkey’s Crew undaunted did their damnedest to keep the ship afloat. All agreed, one of our finest performances, even if almost no-one heard it! Heroic Helen Highwater declaimed the sorry saga of Hullaballoo Belay in the teeth of the booming gale - the weather's hullaballoo continued, but no belay or avast was forthcoming. Finally as appropriately named Mal de Mer gave voice to New York Girls, 3 of the loyal shipboard wives and lovers splashed to and fro across the devastated square, and did indeed DANCE THE POLKA. Truly, show a leg there! - and Dancing in the rain. 

Saturday 21st: Wind W/SW f.3. Weather: Warm sunshine.
A world washed clean: the EU sun shone bright, battened down hatches were opened, tents unfurled, storm lashings cast off. The Medieval Cogge with her castellated fighting top hoisted her billowing bosomy square sail to the breeze again, happy crowds thronged the harbour-side.
    As Anchorman sang: And now the Storm is over and we are safe and well / We’ll go into a public house and sit and drink like hell / We’ll drink strong ale and porter and make those rafters roar / And when our money is all spent, we’ll go go to sea once more.
    All week we’d been fed and watered aboard the 120’ steam survey vessel Hydrograaf. Today the unamplified buoys shared shanties and stories with kindergarten children (till they were press-ganged below by their teachers) and passing crowds on the quayside.  Later with an evening concert on the poop we had a captive audience - some of whom had tried to follow ESM around the festival - and our performance climaxed with the ship’s steward upstaging BiIly’s ‘bad beer for sailors’ with copious quantities of excellent Belgian brew mid-verse; and administering a coup-de-grace when Ank’s desperate plea for his watch to end was terminated appropriately with the ringing of Hydrograaf’s huge bronze ship’s bell, which in a previous incarnation would’ve marked the coming aboard of the Belgian Royal Family.

Sunday 22nd: Wind: var. f.2. Weather: Bright & clear

We were honoured to be the one group asked to sing at the Mayor’s formal Reception, where aloft up the town hall marble staircase Levi managed to communicate infectious clapping - Pay me my money down - and Bish thank the crew of the ex-whaler Artemis, and all the tall-ship crews present, with un ballade catastrophique avec une baleen qui mange un matelot, celebrating the courage and humour of fisherman and sailors everywhere.
    Those still capable of walking straight navigated to the appropriately named Mercator stage, when if voices were failing slightly, we responded by turning our last gig into street-theatre and am-dram, before rushing across the Border to catch our ferry home.

Like the magnificent Belgian Bouillabaisse, where thrown together in a washing up bowl in a  flavoursome sea, whelks, mussels, prawns, salmon, lobster, herring, winkles, langoustines jostled happily together, and atop of which a floating raft of Welsh Rabbit bobbed - so in this Oostend Festival too a wonderful polyglot crowd from all nations of Europe, and their vessels, here were stirred together in a savoury soup of friendship to celebrate our common maritime heritage. And in a polyglot chorus of Flemish, Dutch, French, Belgian, German, Pidgin-English, Franglaise, we shared the stories and songs that celebrate and unite us all - because they grew from a common experience of courage and labour on the sea that girdles and unites our one planet. From ESM - Huzzah! Thank you Oostend. We look forward to a return trip


Betwixt the twentyfourth & final day of February, year of grace 2022
Variously Krackow cinema/theatre; Starryport Tavern; medieval Town Hall steps.
Wind:- departing British Waters - SW gales & gale warnings all sea areas f.8/9
Weather:- River Vistula, Poland - Central European seasonal cold, wind calm or light air f.0-1

Tho’ decimated by Plague back home, the Buoys were able to muster a full Starboard Watch, determined to keep the good ship Malarkey afloat - and did with gusto, determined to respond whole heartedly and full throatedly to our wonderful Polish hosts. Though adverse conditions, political headwinds,  pernicious and proliferating Pestilence had kept us apart these three years past, we were welcomed   and remembered - complete with full details of our previous repotoire, crew, personaliies and peccadilloes! - as long lost friends. A huge welcome placard, a fathom square (apporx 4 square meters) WE LOVE YOU EXMOUTH  SHANTY MEN as we entered the 1000 seat theatre for our opening set.

 Shortly after, Poland was also welcoming 10s of 1000s of refugees across the Eastern border with equal generosity, as the terrible invasion and war in Ukraine escalated. Like our wartime ‘Keep Calm & Carry On’ the spirit seemed to be ‘Keep Calm, and carry on Partying!’ - some pro-Ukraine demos in the Market Square, and regularly in concerts, sudden spontaneous waves of  everyone standing up together, and with deep intensity and passion, singing SOLIDARITY. (Leck Walensa, Gadasnk shipyard worker, legendary Polish Solidarity leader, instrumental in dismantling Soviet communism and the end of the Cold War.)

TALL SHIPS adn TAVERN TALES - The Festival seemed an ideal time for the European Launch of our new double phonographic recording, just before the UK launch back in our home Port and Beach Tavern. We like to think now there are some little bits of Krakow (hygenically wrapped) that will be for ever Exmouth.

Poles party late! Our second set was billed for 2.00 to 3.00 in the morning in the legendary Starryport Tavern, HQ of Polish Sail Training, and an unimaginable (unless you’ve been there) Sailor’s Dive and Underground Bar. Ship models, charts, paintings line the walls; blocks & tackles, nets, and a whale’s verebrae & pelvis hang from the low ceiling/deckhead; and up forrard when the tiny stage is, the complete bow and bowsprit of an actual fishing boat has crashed through the ceiling. Unforgettable, till you’ve experienced the overflowing generosity of our hosts - ale by the gallon jug (3.78541178 litres) home made vodka shots, more ale, hugs and kisses. Remarkably, we remembered most of our shantys, and most of the right notes, tho’ not necessarily in the right order.

Ships crews were often multi-national, and trade became the route along which music and cultures as well as goods travelled and mingled. In this Festival Shantying cross-fertilized with Bluegrass, Rock & Roll, Afro-Carribean Gospel, Gypsy Klezmer fiddling, Irish folk songs - Molly Malone alive and well or hideously ghostly appeared and reappeared.

It was delightful to discover audiences joining in the Polish versions of Shantys and Forebitters we knew well - including Ank’s Fiddlers Green; Levi’s Pay me my Money Down; Sam’s Santee Anna, Mal de Mer’s New York Girls, and for Bish to perform Jack, swallowed by a whale, beneath actual whale back bones! The tavern was so crowded, hot, and heaving we could’ve been in  a whales belly.  And our bellies too were not neglected: interesting sausages, black bread, and copious  quantities of pickled cabbage constantly available - and the latter of course, an ideal anti-scurvy diet. Like seamen of old, the harbourside carousing kept carrying on well into the night watches. We look forward to a return visit, with a  full crew, and welcoming friends from Krackow to the Malarkey’s home Port of Exmouth in days to come.

 Shortly a

Nancy Potter House Topsham

TALL SHIPS & TAVERN TALES, CAKE & COFFEETwentyseventh day of September, year of grace 2021
Nancy Potter House, Nelson Close, Topsham
Wind:- Northwesterly force 4, gusty, rising
Weather: Equinoctal mists & fogs, chill

Despite their mutinous & pathetic opening ‘plaint & whinge - STRIKE THE BELL SECOND MATE, LET US GO BELOW ! - the Buoys stayed on deck not for one but TWO full watches to help the crew of the recently launched Barque NANCY POTTER; and delivered 2 full-throated & full-hearted spasms.

The equinox just past, the darkness drawing in, equinoctial gales forecast, sea mists & autumnal chills in the air - for fair-weather sailors the season’s ending, and already in the Port of Topsham vessels being laid up on quaysides & in winter mud berths. But locals who had heard the Crew rollicking & roistering a month earlier at the Port’s Charter Day, now invited the MALARKEY to tack back up the Exe Estuary’s winding channel to entertain citizens likewise in the Autumn of their lives - cranky maybe, but definitely NOT laid up yet,

The Estuary League of Friends gathered together many who take regular passage aboard the Nancy Potter - where, like the ‘Flying Angel’ Mission to Seamen’s ships, non-alcoholic drinks, bounteous cakes, books, medical care, barbers, comfy chairs and modern means of communication home to distant shores are made readily available.

TALL SHIPS & TAVERN TALES - the Buoys first shared the kind of shantys they used for Capstan, Halliards, Bracing, Hoisting, Sheeting, Furling. Later, as though gathered ashore in a dockside pub (of which Topsham boasts many) lounging around the tavern table's bare boards with overflowing tankards, they shared tall stories, rattling yarns, romantic encounters, embarrassing medical misfortunes (JACK! YOUR MAINYARD IS SPRUNG!! No, duly served parcelled and tarred the said spar is hopefully back in action) and drank CHEERS and GOOD HEALTH with a toast to NANCY PERRIMAN, Exmouth’s own hero of Trafalgar, a powder-monkey aboard the VICTORY (with a poem penned by Bosun Quill) and then a toast to TONY & PAM whom we discovered at that very time were celebrating an unbroken marital voyage of 67 years and a birthday. ROW ON!

All too soon feisty Landlady Helen Highwater called TIME (she well used to disciplining tipsy and tempestuous seamen, and those like Eamon Fyre who squandered their wherewithal on GROG) and singing soulfully TIME TO GO NOW the buoys made their farewells, heading off to whatever soggy hammock, hard bunk or weevilly biscuit awaited them before their foolish pledge to GO TO SEA NO MORE proved false again

Teign Shanty Festival

Ye 3rd, 4th, & 5th daies of August, year of grace 2021
Bars, beaches, churches, & clubs in Teignmouth & Shaldon
Wind:- Easterly f. 2 - 4, then var.
Weather: limited viz. early, sea fret clearing later.

Topsail schooner Johanna Lucretia finally arrived, accompanied by dolphins, her yardarms with topsails neatly furled towering over the rooftops. The Buoys managed to arrive on time, and lurching atop their sea chests set up at a convenient crossroads to demonstrate how to furl sails leaning over a swaying yard in mid air. Eamon Fyre roped everyone in to demonstrate the long haul halyard shanty - Boney was a Warrior.  Sam Minella, newly reunited with the crew after his time, like Alexander Selkirk, on a desert island, led the short haul bowline hardening shout Blood Red Roses. We displayed how to turn a capstan to the steady stomp of Billy Boy or Quill’s Fire Marengo - and impressed half-pint crew members aboard to help heave and haul and shove.

Thereafter, while some crew paused to worship in the port’s many welcome Hostelries, the entire ship’s company rolled up to St Richard’s Church for assorted shanties and forebitters, many with un-Biblical language or (as the Book of Common Prayer saith) in the vulgar tongue - but finished with Ank’s hymn-like Row on Row on - keep going through the dark till you see the light. Amen!

Finally, crossing the briny to the further shore aboard a ferry decked out as a man o’ war with gun ports, to the Conservative Club where as darkness fell the Malarkeys’ crew (whose politics are as motley as the seas they’ve sailed and the costumes they’ve cobbled together) ended the evening with their own unique splicing together of pity and tragedy (Helen Highwater grieving her drowned sailor in Lowlands Away) the slavery tear-jerker, No More Auction Block, and a big dose of gusto, authentic shanties and music hall comedy. Some Dorset Wrecks stayed on to join in and we rattled the Conservative rafters with the the clanking chains of the anti-Press Gang lament On board a man of War. before climaxing with a rumbustious Leaving of Liverpool, Rolling Home, and encored with Roseabella, where 50% of the audience got at least 1 word right.

Clinton Arms Concert

29th day of August, year of grace 2021
Wind:- Easterly f. 2 - 3, then var.
Weather: Warm & calm.

Survivors of Topsham, a small but perfectly formed crew the next day responded to a sudden call to board the Clinton Arms (Littleham, where Lady Nelson is buried) to entertain holidaymakers.

Eamon Fyre, ship’s Gunner, renowned for his ability to hit the target (and the right note) was himself felled by a vicious dart, a small but perfectly aimed projectile from a striped assassin, the rear gunner of the Hornet, and had to be hospitalised.

The landlord was delighted with the event (though not presumably with wasps in his beer) and hopes to haul the Buoys aboard again for future performances.

Topsham Charter Day

Twentyeighth day of August, year of grace 2021
Topsham streets, pubs, and quayside
Wind:- Northeasterly force 2 - 3
Weather: Calm & bright


The town dressed overall to celebrate its charter day. Diminutive pirates, mini mermaids, full-grown floozies and historically accoutred damozels and dignitaries thronged the narrow streets, Exmouth Shanty Men were invited from down stream to what was once Britain’s second busiest port, to launch the celebrations of FISH and SHIPS and lead the procession. In a town that built and sent 3 ships to Trafalgar, and with local publicans gearing up with outside bars and barrels and plastic tumblers it was inevitable that as the buoys lurched down Fore Street they struck up with A DROP O)F NELSON’S BLOOD WOULDN’T DO US ANY HARM ... improvising increasingly scurrilous verses as they proceeded.

Opening speeches in St Margaret’s Churchyard, then the entire crowd who had been issued with broadsides of some of our repertoire joined in JOHN KANAKA, LEAVING  OF LIVERPOOL and ROLLING HOME. Ancient mariners sleeping beneath the sod must have stirred in their shrouds, as standing above the burying ground their successors, many in historical costume, joined in with gusto.

Historical placards lined the walls, noting that Topsham men - returning after weeks away with salt Newfoundland Cod, French wines, global produce - were notorious for fighting and drinking. As the day wore on, their great grandchildren kept the tradition alive, and a merry time was had by all. Our shanties echoed the history - Ank sent to Walton gaol ‘for kicking and fighting and knocking a policeman down’;  Jack from Newfoundland, Canada’s own Jonah, surviving being swallowed by a whale; and Billy’s raucous stevedore ballads sung again on the quay that once groaned beneath the greatest quantity of imports of any port except London.
Cheerful crowds paused outside the Salutation (very Biblical) The Passage House (very nautical) and for the first time this year, post-scurvy and plague, passers by, dancing girls, and tipsy tourists  were hauled in to help heave on hawsers, and turn capstans, The crew of off-duty medics press-ganged into the chore gave the finest demonstration of capstan turning its been our pleasure to witness for many a long day - forward, reverse, levitate, helicopter!

As we began with Nelson, it seemed appropriate our voyage up Topsham High Street should finally end at The Lord Nelson where a well lubricated crowd seemed to have quaffed more than a drop of Nelson’s blood, and did indeed Dance the Polka in Mal’s catastrophic erotic adventure in New York, A kindly girl insisted on re-lighting the anxious Candlelight Fisherman's burning wick when it prematurely expired. And a bit like sailing to windwward in a f 8, the buoys carried on heroically despite the growing racket around from locals and visitors variously celebrating The Historic Charter, their favourite football team, their marital misadventures, or  their competetive carousing - or even the sea songs and sagas we were determined and delighted to share.

Both the merry sparks of Topsham, and the less literate or eddikated members of the crew surely left that night with a healthy dose of historical enlightenment, and rumbustious delight in the freedoms the CHARTER from Edward I first guaranteed in 1300, from which Topsham as a port has never looked back. And the Malarkey salutes Katie McCabe, 14, who a few hours before the fair, became the youngest person ever to circumnavigate Britain under sail solo - Topsham producing magnificent sailors in the twenty-first century as in the thirteenth.

Poole Maritime Heritage Weekend

Fourteenth day of August, year of grace 2021
Poole Harbourside
Wind:- Southwesterly force 2 - 3
Weather:- Bright and gently breezy

Winding our way through the narrow backstreets & many taverns of this ancient Port, the buoys were accosted by a diminutive pirate, with iron hook for hand, eye patch, scars, and razor-sharp sword. As merchantmen we normally avoid pirates like the plague, or eat their parrots for breakfast, or celebrate with Eamon Fyre our gunner the sinking of a pirate and freebooter - quarter oh quarter those gallant pirates cried, but the only quarter that we gave them was to sink them in the tide! Ahoy!  Today the safest course seemed to enroll the young freebooter aboard on our side as a Half-pint shanty crew member. 

Luckily the fate that befell our Handsome Cabin Boy, as related by Helen HIghwater, didn't befall him. (If you want to know what that was ask any crew member: but what happened on board stays on board - and the child belongs to none of us, each sailor did reply.)

Just to windward of us was an extraordinary ultra-modernist abstract wrought-iron Anthony Caro sculpture entitled SEA SONGS, but the noble Rotarian organisers of the day perhaps felt we might offer more authentic renditions of shanties and forebitters - or maybe, as the Museum was also supporting the event, we were simply seen as quaint museum pieces to add verisimilitude to a worthy charity do, as alongside children built their own pirate ships, heard terrible tales of derring-do, and all were regaled by local worthies (rude mechanicals and clay-pit workers) presenting the heroic drama of the Poole heroine who smuggled vital documents in her underwear across enemy lines to ‘King Billy’ during the Glorious Revolution.

Poole harbours’s great export was enormous hundredweight balls. As always, our performances may discretely hint at the same, while regaling passers-by with our energetic ranting and roaring as true British sailors. Despite or because of this, the historical activities nearby were fully subscribed, the organizers deeply grateful. The crew in their torn and tatty togs embraced for portrait opportunities with post-plague holidaymakers and families.  As for the balls, ball clay makes excellent tankards, trenchers, tureens and toilets, and the entire crew availed themselves of the same at an excellent repast in the Antelope Tavern laid on for us by our hosts. Better by far than the ‘poor old horse’ were oft served up, and their beer undeserving of Billy's excoriating Sailors’ Prayer cursing dodgy landlords in general. And despite the events’ title, no sign of a codfish anywhere.

Sidmouth Folk Festival

First day of August, year of grace 2021
Blackmore Gardens, Sidmouth, Devon
Wind:- SW veering NW force 2 to 4
Weather:- Thunderstorms.

While sudden summer storm Evert devastated S.W. shipping and canvas the MALARKEY survived snug in Exmouth. Surviving hurricane and hangover, plague and pandemic, infestations of invasive grockles and jellyfish, the crew sallied forth to the nearbye strand of Sidmouth for the newly resurrected gathering of dancers and drinkers, tall ships and tall tales, fiddling, festivity and fertility rituals that is the Festival.

As shantymen the buoys pride themselves on their historical verisimilitude and authenticity (Twice awarded the Stan Hugill Trophy for such) and on this day Neptune himself intervened. At the exact moment the compere hailed the crew: WELCOME THE EXMOUTH SHANTY  M...    the heavens opened, the earth moved, a torrential tropical storm descended. Stage and showground were as wet as a square-riggers decks round Cape Horn; the rain descended, the waters rose, green grass turned to inland sea and mud.

Many, as in the days of Noah, fled vainly for shelter; but those who stayed huddl’d under tarpaulins, oilies, brollies, heard ESM pumping out traditional shanties and forebitters without deviation hesitation or repetition. And the beauteous Helen Highwater, like a ship’s figurehead breasting the waters (more superstitious sailors believe a woman’s bosom can calm the stormiest seas like a tantrumming infant) shared lamentable and lyrical ballads. ESM, like a Noah’s Ark, continued undeterr’d through the rain.

Sailing Master Ank had carefully  chalked navigational instructions on the ship’s blackboard: the storm wiped the words off even quicker than we could sing them - but every man jack managed to carry on unafraid through chartless waters by dead reckoning.

The buoys were delighted by their warm if bedraggled reception; and delighted to discover that by the newly invented art of PHONOGRAPHY, wherebye sounds, voices, even shanties can be etched onto small medallions capable of being transported over land and sea, several persons of rank and breeding and influence had secured portions of our performances to clutch to their bosoms and carry forth from hence, whereby we hope for further invitations to shanty with gusto in more distant ports.

We’ll rant and we’ll roar like true British Sailors, we’ll rant and we’ll roar all on the salt sea, until we  strike soundings in the channel of old England .... from Exmouth to Sidmouth is four nautical leagues (League=3.52 land miles.)

Ale and Pie Festival

Tenth day of July, year of grace 2021
Tom & Tina’s Tearoom, Holne, Dartmoor
Wind:- SW veering NW 3-5
Weather:- Rain later

Exmouth Shanty Men were invited to celebrate TOM & TINA’S 1st anniversary reopening after lockdown. The Malarkey lurched far inland up Dartmoor’s foothills - more Tors than Tars - to a village Teashop. Fearing bucolic agricultural and rural Devonians might know little of maritime ways, the crew hauled ship’s timbers, a capstan, a complete ship’s wheel, hawsers, buckets and barrels, and their much-voyaged sea-chests with them.

As we arrived the church bells began to peal - but not for us. A beauteous bride was gliding up the church path. We were concerned that we might be lowering the tone of village and teashop - the Buoys rather out of their depth with dainty and doilies. Our fears were unfounded - the teashop was hosting an ALE & PIE FESTIVAL - and Tom & Tina plied us with overflowing hospitality, for which we are profoundly grateful, and lubricated our rusty tonsils and other essential organs.

Far from having to restrain their ribaldry and rudery and gusto, the Buoys found the packed lawn and umbrellaed  tea tables responded with enthusiastic warmth to the full shanty experience . . . little children danced, adults sang along, crew members (after over  a year of being laid-up by the recent plague) flirted outrageously with bevys of country beauties, and a wonderful audience from infant to octogenarian delighted  ESM’s manly - and one woman’s - Spirits.

As bride & groom a few yards away plighted their troths,  it transpired a surprising number of our day’s repertoire celebrated amorous encounters - delightful or doomed, consummated or catastrophic. Levi Shore, recently married - when our whole crew had roistered and rollicked and sung at his nuptials - sunk to his knee to proclaim his love for London Julie ... hopefully only because he couldn’t improvise an appropriate rhyme for Exmouth Tracey quick enough.

The  lovely Helen Highwater, crew’s sweetheart, lamented her lost love, drowned in the Lowlands low, but then raised an hell of an Hullabaloo describing her mother’s shenanigans with a visiting sailor in a seaside boarding house. Billy Rowlocks promised to write love-letters home to Liverpool, which if anything like his fortissimo singing and stamping will be in huge semi-literate BLOCK CAPITALS scrawled with a marlin spike.

It was left to topmastman Alfredo Heights to levitate the crew’s  educational level, singing variously in incomprehensible French, or the broadest of broad Scots. (Brexit or SNP notwithstanding, ship’s crews and shanties have always been international and multi-cultural.) Vive l’harmonica. Then with a lash-up capstan, he demonstrated for mid-Devon how sailors hauled together. Obsessed with pulling, Ship’s carpenter Cameron Nails made unkeepable promises to the ladies of Holne; and imagined what was on the other end of a piece of string dangling temptingly from an upstairs bedroom window.

Mal de Mer, with no mal of brain or stomach today, received a non-nautical education from the Captain’s daughter, which led to permanent personality changes. Now Pirates are all the rage, Eamon Fyre demonstrated his conquest of a Barbary Pirate ship with both swordsmanship and dancing footwork that would’ve done any groom proud.

Ship’s Chaplain Bish harboured inappropriate (for a man of the cloth) phantasies about voluptuous bikini-clad beauties on Copacabana Beach as we set sail for Rio. It was left to Bosun Quill to take the moral high-ground, urging one and all to avoid W----s and “get married instead, spend all night in bed, and go to sea no more.”

Ank, recovering from a  punch-up on Merseyside, wound himself up to excoriate the weather, “The rain it rains all day long, the northern winds they blow so strong, Bold Riley Oh”, but luckily the forecast  rain almost held off till his last number Goodbye my Roseanna - his last chance to ogle the ladies who’d stayed the course.

Tom and Tina’s home cooked food was superb - after months of ‘Salt Beef, Cracker Hash, and Boston Beans that make us sore’ their magnificent home cooked pies (beef, chicken, vegan) and plenteous ale and cider went down a treat - and delighted the full crowd who stayed for the whole four watches we’d been asked to cover. We’re delighted their Tea Shop’s re-opening went so well after all the reefs and shoals and tempests of recent months, and they hope to invite us back when perhaps we’ll sing a NON-inappropriate shanty for their business, Quill’s own TEA AND COFFEE: we wish Holne Teashop every success in the future.

Exmouth Manor Festival

Twentyeighth day of May, year of grace 2021
Manor Gardens, Exmouth
Wind:- Easterly force 1 - 3

Weather:- Wettest May in meteorological record, destructive gales & floods now past: barometer rising fast, high pressure - Bright sunshine, warm gentle breezes.


After the longest period ever becalmed in the Doldums, in all the years the MALARKEY’s log records, finally we’re underway again.  Many of the crew have been laid low by fever; others clapped in irons and locked up by incomprehensible orders from the distant Admiral of the Fleet. Finally! A whisper of wind; dank lank sails that hung impotently down shivered, stirred - the whisper became a breeze, the breeze became a fair and steady wind. Surviving crew members overjoyed climbed aloft again to man their usual stations, drilled by topmast-hand Alfredo Heights.

All the buoys, opening the Festival, let rip with a rip-roaring set of shantys - halyard, capstan, and erotic. Crowds from the newly liberated populace gathered in the port of Exmouth’s Manor Gardens to celebrate - the finest party for many a year - and clapped, sang along, danced. Three HUZZAHS! for organizers The Grapevine Brewhouse and the Spoken Cafe teams who had at last minute gathered a wonderful array of alcoholic and gastronomic delights from every corner of the globe to rapture every shorebound matelot.

Billy Bow Locks serenaded the crowds with the hopefully prophetic shanty - GOOD DAY COMING! GOOD DAY TOMORROW! But his request for a woman with a great big bum was sadly declined - though after a year and a half at sea every woman present seemed beauteous beyond compare, and every man brave and handsome. The crew record their gratitude to our afterguard who kept up morale during the long doldrums, and for every man jack who today pulled their weight - the MALARKEY’s on her way again.

Nancy Potter House Topsham

Twentyseventh day of September, year of grace 2021
Nancy Potter House, Nelson Close, Topsham
Wind:- Northwesterly force 4, gusty, rising
Weather: Equinoctal mists & fogs, chill

Despite their mutinous & pathetic opening ‘plaint & whinge - STRIKE THE BELL SECOND MATE, LET US GO BELOW ! - the Buoys stayed on deck not for one but TWO full watches to help the crew of the recently launched Barque NANCY POTTER; and delivered 2 full-throated & full-hearted spasms.

The equinox just past, the darkness drawing in, equinoctial gales forecast, sea mists & autumnal chills in the air - for fair-weather sailors the season’s ending, and already in the Port of Topsham vessels being laid up on quaysides & in winter mud berths. But locals who had heard the Crew rollicking & roistering a month earlier at the Port’s Charter Day, now invited the MALARKEY to tack back up the Exe Estuary’s winding channel to entertain citizens likewise in the Autumn of their lives - cranky maybe, but definitely NOT laid up yet,

The Estuary League of Friends gathered together many who take regular passage aboard the Nancy Potter - where, like the ‘Flying Angel’ Mission to Seamen’s ships, non-alcoholic drinks, bounteous cakes, books, medical care, barbers, comfy chairs and modern means of communication home to distant shores are made readily available.

TALL SHIPS & TAVERN TALES - the Buoys first shared the kind of shantys they used for Capstan, Halliards, Bracing, Hoisting, Sheeting, Furling. Later, as though gathered ashore in a dockside pub (of which Topsham boasts many) lounging around the tavern table's bare boards with overflowing tankards, they shared tall stories, rattling yarns, romantic encounters, embarrassing medical misfortunes (JACK! YOUR MAINYARD IS SPRUNG!! No, duly served parcelled and tarred the said spar is hopefully back in action) and drank CHEERS and GOOD HEALTH with a toast to NANCY PERRIMAN, Exmouth’s own hero of Trafalgar, a powder-monkey aboard the VICTORY (with a poem penned by Bosun Quill) and then a toast to TONY & PAM whom we discovered at that very time were celebrating an unbroken marital voyage of 67 years and a birthday. ROW ON!

All too soon feisty Landlady Helen Highwater called TIME (she well used to disciplining tipsy and tempestuous seamen, and those like Eamon Fyre who squandered their wherewithal on GROG) and singing soulfully TIME TO GO NOW the buoys made their farewells, heading off to whatever soggy hammock, hard bunk or weevilly biscuit awaited them before their foolish pledge to GO TO SEA NO MORE proved false again

Yarmouth Maritime Festival

Seventh and eighth daies of  September, year of grace 2019
West Quay, Great Yarmouth
Wind: NW 3 or 4 backing SW
Weather: Drizzly and changeable, clearing later

Far West to furthest East, to the shores where Nelson learned to sail, the Malarkey finally warped alongside at Great Yarmouth. The crew, freed form the rigours of a hard windward passage, proceeded to  spread Exmouth anarchy and raucous joy .... with the chef and waitress of an Italian restaurant, and after a magnificent breakfast of local delicacies (fresh bacon and  Norfolk eggs) proceeded to sing their Hearts of Oak out on The Fo’c’sle, in Horatio’s Bar, and on the raised Poop deck of a main stage opposite HMS Bangor.  She let rip a fusillade of gun fire coincidentally at exactly the moment in Ank’s  tragicall account of the  storming of Quebec and the death of General Wolfe as the slaughter commenced.

The steam yacht SS George Stevenson, clearly moved by our obvious gusto, joined in with the loudest steam hooter and klaxon the Buoys have ever heard – a semitone off key. Many of our shanties celebrate yesterday’s triumphs and technology and the struggle to harness wind power – main course, topsail. t’gallant, jib and spanker – but now in Yarmouth, again wind-power rules, with a fleet of racing catamarans that service the hundreds of Wind Turbines and Generators  growing on the North Sea’s shallow offshore sandbanks.

If like Eamon Fyre we remember seamanship that involves ‘every thumb a marlin-spike, and every finger a fid’ these new vessels seem as mysterious and futuristic as  the Starship  Enterprize, but truly are part of the same adventure to tame and harness  the wild wind and sea to our use.

Every ship of the line has a tender – jollyboat, gig, whaler – but our utilitarian tender (a.k.a. Fordtransit) gave up the ghost halfway back home, and with a sound like gunfire (steel on stone)  and a desperate hiss, the starboard bow propeller exploded.

Carpenter Cameron Nails sang lustily and gustily what was emerging as the festival’s theme song, ‘ In Yarmouth town there  lived a man .... with a daughter fair, pretty little thing with golden hair’ but  as to whether  he found a string to pull, or anyone actually pulled his, this Log must remain forever silent.

Shantymen do their bit for Male Mental Health

Dydd Gwyl Dewi eve, year of grace 2020
The Seven Stars, Kennford
Weather:- Tempestuous sleet and hail, v. chilly
Wind:- SW storm Jorge, 7 gusting 9

The Seven Stars (Ursa MInor - pointing to Polaris, true N, and guiding generations of seamen safely home through the dark) had guided the entire hamlet of Kennford into the recently resurrected gastro-pub for a charity Shanty Night for Male Mental Health.

The bar was packed to the gunwales fuller than the Titanic’s lifeboats - saucy Pirate Molls and seductive Lady Tars crammed between diners rejoicing in every conceivable incarnation of fish or crustacea that the sea surrenders, and a fine haul of invited shanty crews. 

The Jurrasix - six lively singers resurrected from the fossil beds of Dorset, bearing a huge armorial Ammonite (upside down).

Our good friends Cask - swashbuckling Steve, and Catherine transformed into the most alluring green-blue voluptuous mermaid - like to lure shiploads of unsuspecting sailors onto the ragged rocks, as “ ... the raging seas did roar and the stormy winds did blow” thanks to Jorge.

Wondering if we The Malarkey’s crew had been invited as exemplars of male mental health issues - but with background levels of friendly pub noise and frolicsome festivity shivering the pub’s timbers, the Buoys let rip with our most gustoish shantys and forebitters - and were rewarded with riotous acclamation and some not just singing, but dancing along.

Rightly top of the bill for popularity, verve, volume, and youthful enthusiasm, were a newly formed crew of local lads, Bow Movement, our hosts for the night, who conceived and launched this charity gig. We  thank them for an excellent and entertaining evening, wish them well as they continue sailing the salty road of shantying, and look forward to our voyages meeting again at future splicings of the mainbrace.

ESM Sing Happy Birthday

Tenth day of February, year of Grace 2020
Galmpton hamlet, Dartside, Nr. Brixham, Devon
Weather:- Named storm Ciara – tempest rain and wind
Weather:- Severe gale becoming storm  f.9/10  W/SW

Galampton creek off the River Dart has seen many fine vessels slide down the slipways, and many others subside in cosy mud berths there in their declining years. The buoys on a run ashore were delighted to be invited to celebrate the anniversary of the launch of a fine trim vessel – The Sweet Ann – on this day eighty years ago.

As the wind blew, the rain rained, and the storm increased, the crew ashore were delighted to find a safe haven, and pleased to add their manly voices to the Birthday Celebration. And Anne, after a lifetime of enjoying shanties and forebitters, sang along with the best.

In our chill Northern mid-winter, the more louche of the crew fantasised about bikini-clad beauties on distant sun-kissed beaches a hemisphere away – Cococabana and the Rio Grande – but the majority were delighted to find warmth and welcome in a loving household ashore, and wish Ann & her family Fair Winds, Happy Havens, & Convivial Carousing. And so say all of us.

Lympstone New Year Concert

The Sabbath, Fifth day of January, Year of grace 2020
Communal Hall of ye People’s Republic of Lympstone
Weather:- Crisp and clear
Wind:- WSW  moderate

Summoned by the Blue Peter flying from the yard arm, the Malarkey’s crew – bleary, bloated, or bright-eyed – forgathered from their Hogmanay carousing, to celebrate a New Year, and a new Decade (however  decayed some felt) in the once mighty transatlantic salt-cod port of Lympstone, now declined to a genteel backwater.

 Nobly piloted by Wayne the Anchorman,  sailing master for the occasion, the Buoys did indeed weigh anchor, sally forth, and set sail for the first cruise of the year, and shared seasonal stories of Tall Ships and tipsy Tavern Tales with gusto, to an appreciative audience. Melodies varied from Albert Truss’ lyrical poetic evocation of his namesake Albatross, to Billy’s stomping Leaving of Liverpool, his sea-boots even louder and  rougher than  his voice – and the rest of a full crew covered all points on the spectrum in-between – poignant and passionate, vulgar and variegated, too many to mention in this log individually, but a good time was had by every man Jack of the Exmouth Shanty Men – and one Woman - and all agreed, an excellent  shakedown cruise into a new year, whatever reefs and wrecks lie ahead.

Exmouth Town Band Christmas Concert

Tenth day of December, year of Grace 2019
Exmouth Pavilion
Wind: SW full gale
Weather: Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey

Twas a dark and stormy night; the wind howled; the rain poured in torrents down;  but the indefatigable citizenry of Exmouth (those who hadn’t already absconded to finer climes) filled the Pavilion for the traditional winter extravaganza. If the wind blew loudly outside, it was nothing compared to the mighty blast of trumpets, euphoniums, trombones, clarinets of the Town Band in full  glorious and harmonious fortissimo; and as the vicious gale rattled riggings in the Dock and chimney pots along the Sea front, the full percussion section on stage rattled out rhythms of Christmas joy and cheerful Carols.

The Buoys, welcomed as ‘special guest performers’ were delighted to add their manly – and one woman – melodies and shantys to the overall event; and in short order Rattled Winches, remembered bairns sleeping by the fireside as they struggled home for Christmas, lamented the Hullaballoo of seduction and marriage break up (remarkably common at this season of enforced familiarity) and chorused the nearest carol to a sea-shanty they knew – I saw three ships come sailing in, with their  precious cargo that is the true reason for  the Season. Then off South to the Southern Ocean where the lonely  Mollymauk soars,  or to the sunny bikini beaches of Rio. Carol literally means ‘a dance’ but one of the Malarkey’s crew, after an unfortunate encounter with a New York dancing girl, decided he was safer round Cape Horn.  The entire crew made their unique Culinary Contribution to this time of feasting and drinking, with a queer and distinctive Recipe, and a Drop of Nelson Blood.

And Lo and Behold, who should appear but the Patron Saint of Sailors, St Nicholas of Myra (oft invoked by Mediterranean colleagues caught in hurricanes) and now, slightly overweight, cruising up our aisle as Santa, distributing largesse port and starboard. And we were delighted to play own small part in supporting Exmouth Gateway Club, and wish all our shipmates, and shoremates, a Happy Christmas & Hogmanay – Splice the mainbrace!

Alphington Shed Theatre Fundraiser

Twelfth day of November, year of grace 2019
Alphington Village Hall
Wind:- Var. 1-3
Weather:- Autumnal, occ. Showers

Sailing master Eamon Fyre ably led the Malarkey’s crew with the Aim (as befits ship’s gunner) of adding doubloons and ducats  to the urgent rebuilding of this collapsing Community Theatre, which had become as leaky, hogged, and unsparred as a derelict hulk. As befits a theatrical charity gig, we attempted our signature two act dramatic performance – TALL SHIPS & TAVERN TALES.

Eamon demonstrated his STAGE FIGHTING and fencing  prowess too, and the previously hidden Terpsichorean Talents of the Buoys came to the fore. Cameron Nails, sounding like a would-be prime minister at election time, offered to PAY EVERYONE’S RENT (as long as they were SWEET LADIES – of which he is a connoisseur and expert). Levi Shore saluted the fair sex with ‘Good morning LADIES ALL (his chronometer only 12 hours out) and shantying lustily, helped the Buoys master the rhythm method – of pulling!

Ship’s saw-bones Doc  Dai Wright, as usual up there with Will Shakespeare, shared epic tales of doom, disaster, destruction, death and TRAGEDY -  The doomed Bold Benjamin and Billy o’ Shea R.I.P.

Mal de Mer squeezed more double-entendres into his account of amorous encounters and their medical aftermath than an old Frankie Howard PANTO, and set the house alight with his FIRESHIP. Cam and Bish, a-roving together, shared lewd BURLESQUE, and Billy, overreacting outrageously to a slightly under-par pint, turned his chagrin into a MURDREROUS MELODRAMA with more slit throats than even the Joker contemplated.

We salute Alfredo Heights, clearly wanting a shore job as Theatre Dresser, who created mayhem with the Millinery – more Alice in Wonderland MAD HATTER than helpful.  Albert Truss provided one truly POETIC & LYRICAL  moment among the anarchy, invoking the magnificent  MOLLYMAUK and souls of dead sailors soaring over the Southern Ocean – and unlike his fellow ANCIENT MARINER, didn’t shoot it down at the last minute. Our one woman, Helen Highwater, as always stole the show, and as a feisty Landlady in a very rough pub, had the Buoys eating out of her hand - as all agreed, HEAVEN’S A BAR.

The Village Hall was as snug, and the acoustics as excellent, as a wooden ship’s  fo’c’sl – and the audience  extremely kindly, assuming our moments of absent-minded silence and amnesia, or desperate IMPRO, were actually carefully crafted WAITING FOR GODOT Becket and Pinter MODERNISM.

Quill the Bosun, having whetted his whistle, finally following much classic and period Dramatalurgical Decorum, and concluded  proceedings with a MORAL  EPILOGUE totally unjustified by his previous behaviour. GET MARRIED INSTEAD! Spend all night in bed! (Who with!?)   

But overall, the crew managed a sort of ragged MUSIC HALL mayhem, and truly delighted to share the real dramas and disasters of life at sea crafted by unknown poets “more used to holding a marlin spike than a pen” whose lusty, poignant, evocative verses survive in shantys and forebitters – and all agreed we would love another RUN ASHORE to the RE-LAUNCHING of the ALPHINGTON SHED THEATRE.

Pickle Night - Royal Navy College Dartmouth

Night of November 7th, year of Grace 2019 / aka 1805
Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth,  Junior Officers Mess
Wind: variable 3 or less
Weather: sea fret, occ. rain

For the first time for many moons the crew of the Malarkey found themselves completely back in their true 19th Century element – gorgeous women in corsets and coiffeurs, Marines in redcoats, dashing young Officers in various degrees of ecstasy or exhaustion after a hard-won victory, a stray shark, landsmen of rank and breeding, and lower orders gathered to celebrate the glorious and tragic news, first heard by ragged west-country sailors and fishermen like us, as HMS Pickle beat into Mounts Bay, before Captain Lapenotiere’s mad cross-country dash from Falmouth to their Lordships  of the Admiralty in Whitehall.

 Likewise heroically dashing from the Port of Plymouth to the Dart, Musician Griselda Sanderson set  toes tapping and bosoms bouncing with wonderful jigs and reels and sailors’ hornpipes on her historical Hardanger Fiddle and Nyckelharpa – when suddenly, devastatingly, the Press Gang arrived, and all and sundry, duly Impressed, found themselves in the low and sweaty confines of  a ship of the Line’s gun deck, anaesthetized there with a pannikin of grog from the barrel, and offered a square meal, each course  eaten with a wooden spoon from the same bowl.

 Mal de Mer shared the news and proclaimed:   The Hearts of Oak have won; we’ll fight and we’ll conquer, and  BRITANIA RULES!  Wayne the Anchorman, desperate to be allowed off watch, pleaded with the Mate to strike the bell – but because the Malarkey had mislaid hers, was greeted with a chorus of premature ‘dongs’ on HMS Britannia’s campanological clanger.

 The Buoys told and retold the perils the fleet had faced and overcome at Trafalgar: a traumatized  Albert Truss told of  the terror of Fire Down Below. Billy Bowlocks, reliving the roar of battle, delivered Broadsides that shook the deckhead and  rattled the rigging, but prophesied a Good Day Coming Tomorrow.

 Helen Highwater, crew’s sweetheart, had every matelot eating out of her hand as she declared her preference for a rolling sailor to a soldier any night. Bosun Curly Quill offered a taste of today’s nautical fare – Chicken on a Raft – but all present were well satisfied with the solid 18th century stew and duff – perfect ballast for rough weather. Gunner Eamon Fyre gave a salutary warning about over indulging in Grog – ignored by all and sundry, as more than a drop of Nelson’s Blood was tossed back.

Ship’s Chaplain Bish squeezed in (and out) a deeply disguised Parable of Resurrection from the Dead – Newfie Jack returning from the belly of the whale – and indeed the whole company, headgear removed, paused and silently remembered departed friends and crewmates as an enormous candle was lit on the top table. A remembrance of the real perils, losses, sacrifices, and courage of our forces today, as in times past. As we re-enacted the stories of Nelson, Collingwood, The Victory, Lieutenant Lapenotiere,  and the speedy Topsail schooner Pickle, the crew of the Malarkey hereby thank and salute the young men and women of The Royal Navy who are their successors today, and thank them all for sharing the best Pickle Night ever.

RNLI Fundraiser - Exmouth

St. Crispin’s Day, this  year of Grace 2019
The Point Bar & Grill, Exmouth
Wind: SW gale, force 9
Weather: Torrential rain

A dark and stormy night, so black we can hardly see our hands in front of us; headgear is hurled seawards by storm force gusts, as this band of brothers struggle through the tempest towards Exmouth Dock.

Young courageous Lifeboatmen reach out to grasp the hands of Shantymen, inadequately clad in flapping slops rags and tatters, staggering through the chaos. Fishes normally lying safely on the sea bed,  fly by in mid air borne by the hands of beauteous mermaids.

No, not an actual sinking and rescue, thank Neptune, but the annual RNLI benefit gig at the Point Bar & Grill, as Exmouth’s noble lifeboat crew members welcomed a skeleton crew of Exmouth Shanty Men to provide a bit of salty cabaret at the fish supper and banquet.

The Buoys did their best, but in the middle the lifeboat pagers suddenly went off – a shout on this dirty night? Men and women struggled into their all-weather  boots, survival suits, oilies, lifejackets and helmets in record time – actually all part of the entertainment, and an excellent night was had by all.  We were honoured to play our own small part in this vital event, and delighted that several diners went home grasping phonographic ESM recordings, hygienically wrapped in cellophane to avoid cross-infection, as further donations to the cause.

Three Cheers for Richard and his team at the Point for this generous fund-raiser, and loud Huzzahs for our Lifeboat Crew, who are ever ready to go out in appalling conditions, saving lives at sea.

28th & 29th daies of September, year of Grace 2019
Bars and Taverns and Dives of the above mentioned Port
Wind:- S.W. f. 6 increasing 8 at times
Weather:- Gales; torrential rain, clearing later

The Malarkey out of Exmouth tacked 10 nautical miles down channel – but upwind – in the teeth of the predicted Autumnal gales, for the mouth of the Teign ... and the pubs and taverns of the ancient ports of Shaldon and Teignmouth, there to be warmly welcomed by anarchic local crew The Back Beach Boyz and loyal helpers, who had laid on a wonderful end-of-summer Shanty Festival, and gathering of Shipmates old and new from the wild Western shores of the increasingly Disunited Kingdom.

Teignmouth is still a working port as it has been for centuries with medieval ferries, exquisite pleasure boats, inshore fishing craft and huge ocean-going ball-clay freighters that squeeze alongside the quays with inches to spare; and dark low-beamed, nook-and-crannied pubs – all creating the perfect authentic venue for 27 different crews to shanty, shout, sing, and make the rafters roar, with, always, appreciative crowds squeezed around as close as pilchards in a barrel. All around too, demonstrations and workshops of maritime arts and crafts – many of which our crew could do with educating in – knotting, bends and hitches, flags, and we definitely need a crab pot or two.

The taverns were warm and welcoming, but oddly distant powers-that-be had refused to allow singing in the streets, perhaps fearing shantying’s subversive anarchic style and un-p.c. and occasionally vulgar lyrics and metaphors – all of which were lapped up by audiences indoors. (The Royal Navy, after a brief trial, likewise abolished shanties as workings songs and replaced them with numbers, as ‘endangering  discipline’ and encouraging those before the  mast to satirise or parody the afterguard.) This log is delighted to record that a couple of buskers, inspired by the Buoys’ performance, set off to have a go in the streets outside                                                                               

ESM tacked merrily between The Ice-Factory, The Ship Inn, The King Billy, Molloys, Ye Olde Jolly Sailor (and it really was) and the waterside New Quay Inn,  where the organizers had laid on a free feast to gladden the hearts and fill the bellies of visiting crews – honest down to earth-grub, the best of the West, warm enough to keep the chilly autumn winds out, generous and plentiful enough to anchor us to any heaving and pitching deck  (a welcome change from salt horse, Boston beans and hard-tack) and tasty enough to die for. Talking of which, an excellent one-off ale – Teign Shanty – specially brewed for the Festival in its second year.

The crew unite with this log in recording their warmest thanks to the organizing committee and team and we look forward to heaving-to or dropping our hook again in the Teign next year.

Shrewsbury Folk Festival

Twenty fourth to twentysixth daies of August, year of grace 2019
Shrewsbury Folk Festival
Wind: var. 1 to 2
Weather: Blistering – pitch melts, Jamaica rum evaporates

The Malarkey, after a brief spell hove to, is now headed 100 leagues northward. Like Ulysses we barely escaped the enchantments and spells woven by Incubus Succubus  luring us to the dreamy south  - Penzance -  where they had invoked the Spirit of SABRINA – we love her, we fear her, she’s never tame. But lo and behold, on our arrival further N. than we had ever penetrated before, our first haven was... SABRINA marquee.  Tack by tack, punching through  traffic, oft becalmed by motorway madness, we has made it to windward from the mouth to well nigh the source of the mighty Severn, Sabrina herself, who  coiled serpent-like around the grassy almost islands and hillocks where, with thousands around us, we rigged our temporary bivouacs ashore.

To our delight and astonishment, in a marquee big enough to contain the entire hull of HMS Victory (minus topmasts ) a capacity crowd cheered us on.  Every man jack (and one woman) did their utmost, and many agreed it had been our finest hour.  Nelson’s gun crews had practiced and drilled to perfection over long hours at sea, and likewise, our  long winter nights in The Beach practicing (and imbibing) finally paid off, and the Buoys delivered their BROADSIDES, BALLADS and SHANTYS with perfect timing, pace, and aim, without deviation, hesitation, or desertion. Truly a memorable series of performances – Huzzah!  Invidious to name any, for each and every one of the buoys (and one handsome cabin  â€˜boy ’) gave of their utmost. The afterguard and officers of the SV  Malarkey hereby wish their gratitude and appreciation to be formally recorded in the Log – honourable mention in despatches  for the entire crew who exhausted, under fire, yet DID THEIR DUTY.

Furthermore, at two crowded workshops following, we were delighted to inspire others to have a go.  Inspired by Helen Highwater’s lament for Lord Franklin, two delightful young ladies sang ‘Northwest passage’- the words, as befits a new generation, were mysteriously concealed inside a newly invented mechanical glass memory mirror, rather than hid in balding heads and behind shaggy beards.

At a final children’s workshop a young volunteer signalman hoisted the immortal message DUTY HIS DO TO MAN EVERY EXPECTS ENGLAND  (he got it upside down first time) as we recounted Trafalgar and persuaded them “A drop of Nelson’s blood (and various otter delicacies) wouldn’t do them any harm.” And Lorelli, age 9, composed and sang a brand new shanty, splicing together shipwreck, disaster, loneliness and the mysteries of the sea – shades of Terror, Erebus, and Marie Celeste. Chorus: The wind will blow and the waves will crash and the sea will sing when I’m drowning ...”

This Log is pleased to report that even as today’s shanty crews are scuttled by anno domini or broached-to by amnesia, the future of shantying is in safe hands, and the  good ship Malarkey will sail on victorious.

Inkubus Sukkubus South West Tour

16th day of August, year of Grace 2019
(also decreed to be National Rum Day – Huzzah say all of us)
The Cavern Club, Exeter
Wind: Southerly gale f. 8
Weather: Unseasonable autumnal storm and tempest.

The Buoys had been invited from a chance meeting in Gloucester Docks  -  ships that pass in the night – to be the warm-up act Inkubus Sukkubus ... a “Dark Goth neo-Pagan” post punk folk-rock ensemble on their 30th anniversary tour of the South West. Their many fans in flowing black robes, black lace, top-hats, black bodices, buckled black boots and dangling silver jewellery contrasted dramatically with the Malarkey’s crew in their washed-out sea-stained sun- bleached white canvas Slops and Tatters.

But as the fog, thick as a Newfoundland Grand Banks haar cleared (actually the night-club smoke machine) cleared, we were warmly welcomed with our repertoire of Shantys and Forebitters  - many of them telling stories as dark and desperate and decadent as any Gothic romance.  Betrayal, danger, hanging, death, lustful and catastrophic encounters with bewitching women.As Inkubus Sukkubus’ set continued, we realized their music too, as shanties do, grew from the naked encounter with the mysterious, terrifying, awesome, magnificent forces of nature – be it hurricane and high seas, seed time and  harvest, the  dynamo of fecundity deep in earth or ocean ... or churning in each puny human belly, Goth or Shanty-man, powerless in the  grip of forces beyond our control – passion, the  mighty Severn in spate, Cape Horn – as the Inkies  sang “constantly the Wild and  Free”,  “We love her and we  fear her”.  We realized both our musics – Candia’s haunting chants, with spell-binding  fiddle, mandolin and  thrumming drum; or the Buoys a-capella gusto and rudery – came from the same deep well. And that was the real magic.


17th day of August, year of Grace 2019

A fast passage to furrin parts - Boscastle, Cornwall
Wind: W/SW f. 4 to 6
Weather: Intermittent showers

Day two of the IS 30th Anniversary Tour finds a  crowd as jam-packed as steerage on an emigrant ship squeezed into Boscastle’s tiny village hall, which had survived  the catastrophic floods here on this exact August date 15 years ago, to enjoy an evening of Magik and mayhem with the wondrous and melodious  Pagan/Goth coven Inkubus Sukkubus – and us. The buoys, as sailors ashore ever do, did a pre-concert warm-up and pub crawl of the tiny harbour’s three taverns – and in the Napoleon rattled the antique rafters with GO DOWN YOU BLOOD RED ROSES.

A magical evening was had by all – strange sea fogs were conjured up from nowhere for ‘JACK, EV’RY INCH A SAILOR’, braving the impenetrable pea-soupers of the  Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Mal de Mer, recovered not from what his moniker might intimate, but from a nasty bout of contagious amnesia the night before, gave a wonderous and riotous rendition of ‘NEW YORK GIRLS’.  Sam and Billy leaping to the fore, proved whatever New York girls can’t do, Cornish Lassies and Witching Girls can – as they danced the polka the length and breadth of the village hall. Billy twirled so enthusiastically that he vanished completely from sight, and strange to tell, when he eventually reappeared his partner had been transformed from a lissom ladye into a strapping man! Well, it was billed as an evening of magic and wonder. Transmogrification the order of the day, and even more the night. The entire crew of SV Malarkey tired, replete and happy, tacked back to Exmouth in the dark after midnight watch.

Sidmouth Folk Week Concert

Freya’s Day, being ye ninth day of August, year of grace 2019

Manor Pavilion Theatre
Wind: Southwesterly Gale force 8, occasionally severe gale 9, backing S.
Weather: everything

Storm survivors huddled into the welcoming Pavilion Theatre, the plush seats a welcome relief after rain, mud, and flapping canvas – tent or square-rigger!  A full crew of the Buoys – and one woman – gave a final full-throated and swashbuckling performance of their  signature two-part Show  of Shanties and Forebitters – Tall Ships & Tavern Tales.

The theatre was equipped with proper flies, as well as brilliant lighting and sound, and traditional blocks and tackles – so soon a panoramic age-of- sail square- rigger canvas backdrop was hoisted aloft  and belayed, and the voyage began.  Part One, work songs and Shanties – first outward bound, then homeward.   Alfredo Heights lamented the hardships and horrors of the ‘Greenland Whale Fishery’, but indeed conditions outside seemed as Arctic and stormy as anything the  Northern latitudes could throw at us.  Bosun Curly Quill vowed he would  ‘Go to sea no more’ and ‘go sleeping with no whores’ – sensible advice in the conditions. We will watch his resolve with interest.  Albert Truss, restored to full health, vowed to hang everyone and everything in sight, tho’ his ‘Hanging Johnny’ owes as much to the hard sweat of hoisting and hanging sails aloft as to any shenanigans of Jack Ketch.

Part Two, safe on shore (temporarily) in a typical tavern, the Buoys sang, boasted, exaggerated, caroused. The lovely but strict landlady, Helen Highwater, welcomed the crew with ‘Heaven’s Bar’, and the entire crew hymned the mythical  ‘ Betty Stoggs’- an ale as rich, rounded and unputdownable as a hobnail-booted Cornish  fish-wife.

Eamon Fyre lamented he’d lost everything – clothes, shoes, wife – with his predilection  ‘for his Grog’. Mal de Mer polkad  passionately with a local floozie, and barely escaped with his life. Our Anchorman, after an earlier punch-up with a policeman, and  in a rare moment of sobriety, prayed ‘God be by my side.’  And so say all of us.

Festival du Chant de Marin - Paimpol

Deuxième et troisième jours d'août, année de grâce 2019
Port de Paimpol, Bretagne
Vent: faible force sud-ouest 1 – 2
Météo: chaud et ensoleillé

LA MANCHE comme un Millpond so even the greenest members of the crew arrived at the delightful port of Paimpol more or less their normal colour (rose tacheté.) Assembled therein for the Festival, Breton fishing boats with the buxom bows, lucscious curves, incomparable buttocks and circus-bright paint-patterns as colourful as every sailor’s lonely erotic fantasy. The harbour jam-packed as in days of yore for the tunny run, the cod fishery,  the herring haul – so close you could walk dry-shod across.

The Malarkey’s crew had difficulty entering – security was tight. In what may have been a dry-run for Brexit Border Control, we could not enter to collect our promised passes and documents awaiting us within, without the said entry documents and passes in order to enter. Kafka rules OK!  After complex negotiations in Franglais and Semaphore, we finally made safe harbour.

Our Anchorman and Navigator Ank piloted us flawlessly through the reefs,  rocks, shoals and winding sea-ways and interstices of the French transport system, to our desired haven – with only one vessel of the three in the fleet being lost, who turned a Nelsonic eye on documented Sailing Orders, and attempted a daring night raid on Paris and points East.

Wayne himself made a brief foray to the Land  ‘East of the Sun and West of the Moon’ but retuned unharmed to warm plaudits and much relief, and sang, appropriately, ‘ROLLING HOME’  to a packed and cheering Officers’ Mess.

Ships that meet: the fine Brig PHOENIX out of Charlestown, and the MALARKEY out of Exmouth. We were welcomed on board to sing and haul, to Chantyman Sam Minella’s new-made shout ‘ HAULEY I-OH’, and all aboard  Yoicked with gusto.  As we prepared for our first quayside set a Samba Band armed with oil drums, a marching platoons of Breton Bombard and Bagpipe players (the bagpipes as continuo while the apple-cheeked  Bombad players recovered and prepared for their next acoustic bombardment) and another band warming up nearby, all struck up simultaneously - and the overall PA system on nearby lampposts joined in with Shantys in a different key from Mission Control headquarters, all at our designated station.  As at Trafalgar, our lads kept their courage and cool, climbed aloft on their old sea chests, and like BRAVE NANCY PERRIMAN of Exmouth, performed superbly under fire, and gave themselves 120 percent to a gathering crowd.

Quatrième et cinquième jours d'août, année de grâce 2019

Wind: Renforcement du vent d'ouest, f.3 ou 4
Weather: Pluie occasionnelle

Among the midnight big-name mega-amplified French bands on the main stages; omnipresent drum and bass modern and traditional ( electronics or marching brass and sousaphones) Dancers bottom-waggling exotic or Breton stately, variously in feathers and body paint or lace head-dresses and traditional tail coats; the painted ladies and performance artistes; the Celtic- Punk Folk-Rock fusion; an escaped gorilla - King Kong hoisting a bombarde player aloft;  and the hallucogenic steam-punk fusion of man machine and beast, mechanical monsters, levitating sea horses, brontosaurus-big pecking flamingos ... and ever flowing excellent Breton Du Vin et la bière et du cidre, with genuine tradional Pecheurs and Shipwrights and Caulkers all hard at work, the Buoys own modest contribution of ACTUAL Sea-Shanties and Forebitters was warmly welcomed  as a vital and authenic part of the exotic mix that is the biennial Paimpol Festival.

Our rough and ready crew are often at their best Busking and interacting with crowds – making up for their lack of sophistication or linguistic skills (Anglais typique) by grabbing volunteers with the same horny hands and finesse they use for hauling halyards and heaving cargoes. Notable exception, the most educated man aboard, our ship’s surgeon, Mr Dai Wright, who not only sings in tune, but speaks excellent French, and wowed the crowds with ‘LA CAPITAINE DE SAN MALO’, ‘PIQUE LA BALENE’ (apparently about harpooning a lover rather than a whale??) and ‘DU RHUM, DES FEMMES, ET D’LA BIER ....’  we are delighted to report that ESM, beside consuming rum and beer, has an actual FEMME, the crew’s sweetheart Helen Highwater, aboard for this trip, who tells the touching story of THE HANDSOME CABIN BOY. (You can probably guess the outcome.)

The entire crew, each man-jack – and woman – warmly thank the chefs, les boulangers, les pâtissiers, les pêcheurs, les agriculteurs, les cuisiniers de Paimpol pour la meilleure Festival Food the crew ‘ve experienced – a welcome change from ‘Salt-horse cracker-hash and Boston beans that make us sore’. We fear mutiny among  the Buoys unless such standards can be maintained at forthcoming English festivals. Led by topsail hand Alfredo Heights (always high and happy) we attempted to sing our thanks to the kitchen staff. ‘ WE’LL SING AND WE’LL DANCE, AND BID FAREWELL TO FRANCE ...’ the first two with tipsy gusto, the latter with regret as we rowed on our way.

Last-night late-night survivors sang aboard the magnificent (2nd?) fastest Le Havre 1894 Pilot Cutter MARIE-FERNAND, and wished them and rival JOLIE BRISE ‘jolly breezes’-  fair winds indeed. Nous remercions les bonnes personnes de Paimpol pour leur hospitalité, leur accueil chaleureux, et pour nous faire à une petite mais importante partie du festival biennal fantastique. Au revoir, jusqu'à la prochaine fois.

Britannia Royal Naval College- Dartmouth

27th Day of July, year of grace 2019


Wind: NW 4 gusting 5

Weather: sunny intervals

A rare day, a rattling day – the gates thrown open of the most beautiful  college of the greatest  Royal Navy in the finest natural all-weather harbour in Devon. Therein performed  and demonstrated  magnificent Wind Orchestras, a  Military Wives  choir, Commandos in Combat, the  Royal Marines Band formation marching and beating the retreat, a Bomb Disposal Unit,  antique tractors and  cars, Transatlantic rowers, Helicopters, Naval  Picket boats breasting the waves, smart young Officers in training – and us.

Albert Truss, oarsman (?) posing with 4 young heroes about to row the Atlantic, launched into ‘Hard on the beach oar, she moves too slow!’ (A CD the crew will surely throw overboard before halfway across!?)

Bosun Curly Quill sang his signature ‘Chicken on a raft’ to the first audience ever to actually understand what the words mean.

Surrounded by the smartest sailors, male and female, with impeccable uniforms and haircuts, Billy Bow Locks let loose his rampant erectile beard and  gale force rendition of his vicious barbering techniques in days of yore –‘ I grabs ‘em by the noses oh, and scrapes ...’

Chaplain Canon Fodder was raptured by the voluptuous 12 feet tall figurehead of Britannia herself  – at last a bosom to clutch as elevated as his fevered imaginings of his roving encounter  with a Maid in Amsterdam, and she was mistress of her trade ....  (Don’t tell the Bishop)

Levi Shore, despite his name, equally raptured by the delicious craft bobbing on the Dart nearby, lamented his lack of pay or prospects, and please ’Pay me my money down’ – but succeeded in transmitting an almost simultaneous outbreak of infectious clapping  all around.

Helen Highwater, in the very establishment where Duke  Philip proposed to Princess, now Queen, Elizabeth, proved how feisty, independent, and powerful women can be, as she described elopement with Shallo Brown in  â€˜Hullabaloo Belay.’

Our noble leader Sam Minella, without any consultation with their eminences the Lords of the Admiralty, himself appointed a dashing young trainee officer as ADMIRAL OF THE FLEET – complete with a truly Nelsonic cocked hat and gold braid – ‘Pretty work brave boys, I’d rather be  an Admiral aboard a man o’war’ – and  demanded all ranks around salute him duly. And they did.

Cuxhaven Shanty Chor



13th and 14th daies of June, Year of Grace 2019
Overland and Undersea to N. German Waddenzee coast
Wind: - Veering NE 2/3
Weather:- UK drizzle clearing to Baltic sunshine

The previous craft on which we had planned to embark having been scuppered by Economic Piracy, the Buoys set off heroically to travel overland and undersea to the mouth of the mighty Elbe for Europe’s oldest Shanty Festival. There, dockside, we finally hove-to (30 hours later) at the  Shanty-Chor Messe - ‘tiz the nearest we’ve seen to Fiddlers Green - local Shantymen had created their own haven with free beer, and ship models, nets, nauticalia, and brass lamps hanging from the low ceiling, and where a delightful crowd at trestle tables, some real old salts among them, received each shanty with rapturous enthusiasm.

Although linguistically limited - most of the Buoys international vocabulary limited to “Bier bitte” and “auf wiedersehen pet” the Euro-crowd, whose grasp of English put our illiteracy to shame, were marvelously accepting. “Our shanty-chores could learn a thing or two from you,” said a kindly woman - not I suspect melody, harmony or rhythm - maybe simply our trademark GUSTO - and the sense (made real by our two-day red-eyed sleepless beat to windward to arrive) - that we really could’ve been shipwrecked mariners washed ashore we knew not where from another country and century, singing our hearts out that we’d arrived anywhere.

This Log notes our appreciation for Ank’s meticulous and watertight travel plans - a document to rank with the Admiralty Pilot for those who would navigate these furrin’ parts, and for Connie Beckmann, and who first, mermaid-like, entranced us, drew us closer and made our passage possible.

S.V. MALARKEY - Log continues:
15th day of June, Year of Grace 2019
Cuxhaven seaside, pleasure-park and theatre.
Wind:- NE 3
Weather: - Sea-mist: viz. poor. Showers

Our two biggest sets. Beside the Waddenzee, as huge container ships and busy tugs rode the Elbe ebb seawards till sea fret and mist hid them, on a wind-swept open plaza. As audience sheltered under oilies and brollies, we lured them forward, reassuring them (some of) the Shantymen had washed, and no notifiable infections had been reported - till finally the Buoys were able to do what they love best - engage the audience eye-ball to eye-ball, and steal the odd embrace and kiss as they act-out our sad and salty ballads, or lusty phantasies of goodtimes awaiting ashore. Notably supported by friends we’d made of German and Dutch shanty crews who shared our passion for earthy and strong songs finally we worked the true Shanty magic - the clouds parted and bright beams of sunshine shone on the survivors - just in time for the REAL wedding that followed the concert, and egged on by our exhortation to ‘get married instead and spend all night in bed ...”

In the evening Gala Concert in the Kugelbake-Halle theatre we were amplified: Eamon Fyre’s grog-induced burb echoed round the 800 seat auditorium, Billy’s “Leaving of LIverpool” rattled the rafters, but Bosun Curly Quill’s heartfelt, soulful and profound ‘MIngulay Boat Song” was the most most moving song of the evening, with prolonged and rapturous applause - perhaps touching deep feelings in a town that still is a major seaport and fishing  harbour (most of Europe’s fishfingers land here) and knows the reality of ‘wives are waiting’ and the true struggle and joy of the voyage home.

We were presented with a huge crate of delicious smoked, dried, pickled, tinned local fish, and a model of the iconic medieval timber seamark and tower that marks the safe passage into the haven. Fearing Customs and police sniffer dogs might apprehend our fish, we enjoyed a late night fish party with new-found friends in our hostel. The sea-tower will stand tall in Exmouth


S.V. MALARKEY - Cuxhaven Log concludes
16th day of June, Year of Grace 2019
Haunts, dives, bars, and open-air stages of Cuxhaven
Wind: - Var. 1 / 2
Weather:- Monsoon: Sunshine & rainstorms clearing later

Several of the crew ventured (appropriately) into the MUSEUM of OLD WRECKS, but managed to escape in time to perform in an “Eight hour non-stop concert” - which the programme advised “will surely need some endurance.” It’s our middle name. We had been complimented not for singing but for acting-out our shantys. As our Anchorman sang ‘Leave her Johnny leave her” a sudden monsoon downpour caused almost the entire audience to act-out - and leave at a rate of knots, We carried on regardless. Later Wayne the Anchorman saved the day - the final All Hands / all Crews / all Shanty-chors Finale appeared to have been scuppered by thunderstorms that jiggered the electrics - live microphones liable to electrify the performers, levitate shanty men, and fry more than fish - our noble Ank, unaccompanied and unplugged, struck-up “Rolling Home” - thus encouraged, all hands damp but unbowed blasted out the shanty known to seafarers the wide world over - first  North then South to the huddled masses who’d stayed to the bitter end. So together, in genuine Euro-harmony, we rolled home, be it to dear old Hamburg, or dear old England.

DRUNKEN SAILORS COMEUPPANCE - an ESM first! In Die Klein Kneipe, bribed by copious quantities of Schnapps & Aqua-Vitae, and egged on by all the company -  an ocean tugboat crew, tourists, locals - we broke our 12 year taboo, and sang, despite the better judgement of some, melodiously and lustily WHAT SHALL WE DO WITH THE DRUNKEN SAILOR? (Some of the ship’s company had already done the necessary research earlier in the festival.)

And so finally rolling home ourselves, singing as we went, in hostel and restaurant, on platform and in railway-carriage, and back in Blighty in the Mad Bishop & Bear and on the midnight train - surprisingly both in Germany and England, to warm encouragement, applause and smiles. And so to bed.

Farewell Terry Firma (Eric Horwell)

Terry Firma crosses the bar.

10th day of June, year of Grace 2019
Wind: SW f. 4
Weather Chill, changeable, occasional heavy showers.

With a heavy heart, this log records the loss of the oldest member of our crew - Terry Firma.

Our good friend, our shipmate, companion of many sorties far and near, white-bearded ESM poster-boy and most photogenic of an otherwise motley crew, with his twinkling eyes, battered straw hat, and repertoire of songs, often sad and poignant, that melted hearts - and often remembered as the highlight of our performance.

The Buoys turned out in force to remember Terry, to celebrate his life, and to surround his passage from this world to the next with chanty and song - may he surely have crossed the bar, passed safely through the deep waters of death - and find safe haven, harbour and homecoming in Fiddlers Green, with a pint of his favourite Otter, on that further shore where all hurts are healed, all things made new, and the love of Jesus in whom he trusted, shine brightly upon him.

A full company of shantymen sang and processed: Wey hey Stormy! Now Terry Firma has gained the day, Walk him along John, carry him along, But our dear shipmate has passed away - Carry him to his burying ground ... Now Terry Firma will always stay ... Here in our ranks boys, not fade away - Carry him to his burying ground.

As we said goodbye to the Silver Fox The Farewell Shanty echoed round the rafters of St John in the Wilderness where the ancient Nave roof beams (same word as ship) are for all the world like a wooden square rigger’s oak ribs: HAUL AWAY TO HEAVEN, GOD BE BY MY SIDE. The Malarkey’s ships Company wish to record our loving thoughts and condolences for Ruby and all Eric’s family, who laid on a generous Wake for all in the Beach Pub, our home tavern where Eric so often had shared shanties and libations, and as dusk drew in we shared the stories and songs he knew and loved.

Topsham Brewery Tap Room

Tenth day of May, Year of Grace 2019

Maclaines Warehouse, Exeter Quay

Wind: SW f.2/3 veering NW.

Weather; crisp and clearing.

At the end of Britain's oldest ship canal (1563) in a derelict stone warehouse, the buoys were delighted to be asked to participate in the resurrection of an ancient quayside building into a new pop-up pub. The cobbled pavements, sweating stone walls, trestle tables, timber benches, and actual barrels with taps behind the bar, could have been any seaman's favorite dive back in 1830 when Maclaine built the said building, and perfect;y matched the period our lustiest shanties and most poignant ballads were first chanted, chortled, shouted - or in the case of the lovely Helen Highwater, actually sung in tune.

A packed audience for the weekend launch included master mariners, meteorologists, university lecturers, a psychiatric nurse (useful!) students and dogs - and each bought their own fair share of gusto to add to the buoys quotient - aided we suspect by the excellent products of Topsham Micro Craft Brewery bubbling away next door. And the decor - unchanged since 1830 - perfectly matched the more knackered looking of the shantymen.

Alfredo Heights, topsail hand, at home on the highest yard arm, must also sing those highest notes inaudible to ordinary mortals - clearly delighting the canine contingent, who joined in with gusto too.

Aware of the rumour BIlly Rowlocks might be one of the crew, the brewery had added a specially strengthened new floor - huge timbers atop granite cobbles. Even so Billy's sea-boots rattled the rafters, and roused the adjacent table likewise to pogo, stomp, and go.

Levi Shore achieved a first - getting an entire pub AND crew to CLAP simultaneously (statistically unlikely as winning the lottery.) The most enthusiastic patron, in full-bottomed wig, tricorn hat, armed with a naked cutlass, and a fetching pirate moll in pantaloons by his side, turned out to be the world's expert on cumulus clouds: a scientist from the Met Office carrying on Admiral Beaufort's noble endeavour to make seafaring safer, and forcasting preciser. Hereby a toast to all ye Weather-Men in Topsham's finest ale!

The ragged and ageing crew of the MALARKEY, who have felt for the last decade they've sailed alone on uncharted seas, now began to discover, astonishingly, paradisial islands where YOUNG men and women from the future took unashamed and unabashed delight in the raucous and randy, and sweet and sentimental ditties  that we and our fellow ancient mariners have preserved from centuries past. Shantying ( and its companion sisters, ale-quaffing and square-rig sailing) is suddenly popular - and the crew were hugged, kissed, and egged on by those living in a mysterious future of cybernetics, robotics, apps, and virtual reality - when the only webs we knew were spiders'; global communications meant, literally, sailing there tack by tack; the net was something you hauled, not surfed, and if lucky might find full of silver darlings; and reality ALWAYS real, and oft wet, windy, and on the nose. We wish TOPSHAM MICRO BREWERY MEGA-SUCESS in their endeavours (old ways sometimes really are the best) and a fine haul of happy imbibers, and we look forward to returning to the Tap-Room as soon as wind and tide permitting.

Stoke Cannon Pub Fund Raiser

Twentysixth day of March, Year of  Our Lord 2019

St, Mary Magdalene Church, Stoke Canon

Weather: unseasonably warm.

Wind: f. 1-2 var.

The buoys are attracted to pubs like moths to lighted lanterns, pirates to plunder., and Yarmouth sailors to bits of string. Imagine their delight to be asked to rescue a besieged pub, whose building piratical owners were seeking a king’s ransom for. Desperate their beloved inn would be plundered, scuppered, and sold, heroic  villagers have rallied round to raise the ransom.

Ever gallant and patriotic, their hearts of oak stirred to the core by this act of gold lust and calummny, The Malarkey  urgently sailed to the rescue. They fired forbitters, shot salvoes of shanties, and let loose two broadsides of ballads, all for to win, hopefully, the necessary dubloons, ducats, pieces of eight and gild moidores to liberate the noble Stoke Canon Inn.

Holy ground Once more – the concert was in the local church, where the good priest of the port had opened her heart and church for us. We made the rafters roar, where the welcoming wooden interior had as wonderful an acoustic as a wooden ship’s fo’c’sl. Overcome by the unusual venue, Anchorman Wayne was moved to reverently remove his hat, before producing a fine forebitter that could as well be a holy hymn as a pub sing-around – Row on Row on. Some of our ballads were less devout – dodgy adventures with ladies of easy virtue ,like Maggie May, and losing hats, trousers, waistcoats, money, and something less mentionable to the same. But a profoundly penitent Bosun Quill, vowing to go to sea no more,  assured us he would ‘go sleeping with no whores, but get married instead, and spend all night in bed ...’ -  the Vicar could not have put it better.

Then well into the Night Watch, the buoys did their best to keep the Pub afloat by drowning countless pints, all in the course of duty. Thank you Stoke Canon, and may your endeavours be richly rewarded.

Fisherman's Friend Film Premier

15th day of March. Year of our Lord 2019

Picture House Cinema, Port of Exeter

Weather:- Troubled and stormy

Wind:- West Norwest f. 5 to gale 8, occasionally 9.

THE BUOYS have been present at many launches of vessels small and large - but this is the first time they have been asked to assist at the launch of a CINEMATOGRAPHIC FILM - a newly invented species of magic lantern show where the figures actually MOVE and TALK - as jerkily as the Malarkey's crew after a night on the sauce. From the obscure recesses of little Cornish fishing  ports and the smoky snugs of West Country bars shantying has set sail, and conquered the folk world - and foremost among the crews to do so, the Fisherman's Friends from Port Isaac, who have done so much to share our salty heritage with foreigners (that's anybody not from Cornwall.)

On this occasion the Fisherman's Friends were 2 dimensional, on the silver screen, and ESM assuredly 3 dimensional, especially Cameron Nails (from any angle.)  Fortified by free PINTS & PIZZA (a foreign concoction apparently of hard tack and hard cheese - remote cousin of our own Welsh Rabbit - tho' you must never use that word afloat - bad luck!) We were warmly received by the crowded cinema cafe, and like to think we didn't let the side down, but showed the gusto, humour, passion, earthiness and sauciness of all good Shanties, as of course do the Fisherman's Friends. But we must admit, all credit to them, they not only sing great, but as actual seafarers sailors lifeboatmen and fishermen, have experienced the realities, and sometimes the tragedies, for real, which most of us just sing about. If you have a chance me hearties, heave-to near a cinema near you, clamber aboard, pay your ducat or doubloon, and enjoy a superb seafaring drama about much more than shanties. And we wish Fisherman's Friends good success -  with creels and pots and nets on the high seas, as well as on vinyl and celluloid.

Miedzynarodowy Festiwal Piosenki Zeglarskiej Shanties

The 21st day of February. Year of our Lord 2019

Krakow, Poland

Weather:- Chlodny chlód  i oczyszczac 

Wind:- f.0 - f.2  Zmienny / zachód 

Departure from the Port of Bristol much delayed. Swabbie Mal apprehended (again) with piratical knives accidentally concealed about his person; and Canon Fodder strip searched with a haversack load of steel screws. (Screwing of course forbidden to Chaplains whilst on duty) Both items useful aboard in case of emergency, but apparently unwelcome aboard our air-ship setting sail to Slavonic skies.

The buoys welcomed with open arms - literally! - and hugs and kisses. Unlikely as it seems our female fan base is here in Central Europe. In a basement restaurant where ale is served by the metre (for sailors = 0.561666 of a fathom) egged on by waitresses; in the underground Stary Port Tavern, centre for Polish sail training, and where a ship’s bow and bowsprit appears to have crashed through the ceiling, and we were billed to shanty till the wee small hours; and in the huge 1000 seater theatre, we sang our hearts out. A typical shanty concert here is 5 hours - and the Polish and international audience join in with gusto in every seafaring tongue, and applaud each crew with shrieks and whoops and whistles.


22nd to 24th daies of February, Year of Grace 2019.

Weather - unchanged

Exmouth expects every crew member to acquit themselves as expected!? - once on shore they did:-

Billy Rowlocks, our Krakow virgin, was not devoured by the fire-breathing Krakow dragon as tastier virgins had been in the past - his boots. buckles, buttons, beard (and booming bass voice) proving indigestible to the most ferocious monster - but he nearly suffered asphyxiation when a Stary Port lady demonstrated smother (rather than mother) love.

Levi Shore entranced a delightful and dishy Pirate moll in full fig - though whether it was his jokes, his Steve Knightly look-alike hair do, or sheer personality, none could tell.

Our Anchorman, having shipwrighted wonderfully watertight travel plans and set lists, single handedly saved the faltering Polish economy - quaffing prodigious quantities of ale, served here 6 glasses at a time - and appropriately curtain-called our final theatre set with Rolling Home. 

Our gunner Eamon Fyre, avoiding salvoes of deadly cherry brandy, acted out with impeccable swordsmanship (RADA meets Morris dancing) bloody ballads of sea battles to loud acclaim - and demonstrated thumbs like marlin spikes, and fingers like fids.

Bosun Curly Quill was followed from bar to bar by those desperate for second helpings of his Chicken on a Raft - where his agonisingly extended longest lowest loudest note beat local favourites ‘The Pirates’ by a gasp and a half. 

Bish happily squeezed his concertina, while the rest of the crew likewise experienced squeezes and hugs from the most wonderfully welcoming Polish shanty lovers. We eagerly await our next invite.

Sam Minella, our noble captain, was commended for bravery in baring his fine legs, calves, feet etc etc. in subzero temperatures in the open air concert in the Medieval Market Place, where our torn 18th Century cutty sarks and pantaloons and weskits stood out among a scarved and fur-hatted and anoracked crowd. And lo and behold, on the last day, he recieved on our behalf the Stan Hugill Trophy for ‘The Most Authentic Shanty Crew’ - a fine bronze anchor and  plaque.


25th day of February. Year of our Lord 2019

Weather: Polska i UK wykapal sie w Wesolosci

Mal, minus knife, was raptured by Leonardo’s ‘Lady with a Ferret’ (visiting locally) and added to Krakow’s buzzing artistic and international vibe by a roof-raising Rule Britannia in our final midnight set - where we enthusiastically waved Polish flags to show our European committement. Which only goes to prove that just as the Krakow Dragon was overcome not by brute force but by intelligence, so The Sea, Sailors, Ships, and Shanties do more to unite Europe and the World as one, that ever the follies of politics or boundaries do to divide.

St Ives Shanty Shout

24th day of November. Year of our Lord 2018

Harbourside Taverns & Alehouses of the above haven.

Weather:- Squally showers

Wind:- North Easterly, f.4/5

 England had just beaten Australia (37/18) so we floated into 'The Lifeboat Inn' on a wave of raucous goodwill - and proceeded to share shantys from The Caribbean, Labrador, Louisiana (ships' crews were always polyglot and multinational, and shantys too) as well as 'dear old England' - but Alfredoe finished with a heartfelt patriotic "Hearts of Oak". Imagine our surprise when by a miracle of the newly invented Magic Lantern, animated images of the Buoys appeared on the same screens where  moments before our heroically battling and magnificently muscled 15 had disported themselves. 

We created a scrum of sorts in the heaving pub as we press-ganged unsuspecting punters to heave and haul and sing and dance and ship temporarily aboard The Malarkey, where your ‘tackle’ has totally different connotations. 

We enthusiastically downed and sank copious quantities of hot mulled cider (it was rough outside) and good Cornish ale (and sea-cook Sam duly lilted lyrically his homage to Betty Stoggs) - all this in order to help raise and lift up Cornwall's recently invented "Aire Ambulance"- a sort of levitating sky-lifeboat, that can swoop like a seagull and soar like an albatross, powered by what appear to be spinning windmill sails fore and aft. Apparently this "Heli - Kopter", as she's christened, is able to rescue and succour the distressed and injured in Cornwall's wildest and remotest coves and cliffs and hamlets and moors.

Our final shout was in 'The Castle', where drinkers and singers were jammed and packed together as cosily as a barrel of pilchards - and shanty crews provided the salt. We were delighted to meet up with our old friends from up North, Kimbers Men: and Neil, John, Gareth and Steve added Cape Horn strength harmonies and Double-bass sonority to our own Anchorman's not insignificant rendition of 'Rolling Home.' We raised the low rafters, and hopefully helped the "Heli - Kopter" likewise rise and take-off even more.

RNLI Charity Evening

16th day of November. Year of our Lord 2018
Ye Point Bar & Grill, Exmouth Dock
Weather:- Drizzle and mist
Wind:- Easterly, 4

SHIPS THAT MEET IN THE NIGHT: S/V Malarkey and RNLB R and J Welburn. The ageing crew of the former, and the youthful crew of the latter joined in a delightful fund-raising festivity, the generous project of ‘The Point’ restaurant, where diners were treated to a superb fish supper, met some of Exmouth’s lifeboat team; and (to add a sense of maritime disaster and foreboding to the evening?) salty shanties and forebitters from the buoys - and of course our one lady, Helen Highwater.

In the middle of one of our more lecherous ballads (‘A Roving’) suddenly the pagers went off! Just at the point Jack Tar vainly hoped to start undressing his moll, floozie, doxy, maid of Exmouth, the recently volunteered lifeboat crew had to leap into action in seconds, strip off, struggle into sea boots, armpit trousers, and RNLI oilies to be ready for a ‘shout.' Competitive Strictly Come Kitting Up! The real crew I suspect were much quicker.

All good fun - and a reminder of the realities of the lifeboat service, to be ready at a moment to put to sea in storm, tempest, wreck, cliff fall, medical emergency ... to save the lives of fishermen or merchant seamen, windsurfers or dinghy sailors, mariners or holidaymakers - or even dogs! Albert Truss, oarsman, reminded us of all those lost at sea in the haunting ‘Mollymauk’ - albatrosses, the souls of dead sailors.

Old and young - Terry Firma, octogenarian oldest member of our crew, sang plaintively ’Time ashore is over’ - but we were delighted our fund raising was for the training and equipping of young Tom (17) not much older than a cabin boy, the newest member of Exmouth's Lifeboat Crew - and who unlike us, literally will have to leave the shore and set out whenever there’s a shout.

Our thanks and best wishes to the staff at The Point, and all who supported the event, and The Malarkey dips her ensign , fires a salvo, salutes, and raises a cheer for our heroic volunteers who man  Exmouth's 2 lifeboats,  and our best wishes go with Tom and all the gallant crew who’ll set out whenever the need is greatest for 'those in peril on the sea.'

Bridgewater Guy Fawkes Festival

3rd day of November. Year of our Lord 2018
Ye High Street & Angel Place
Weather:- Chilly and autumnal: rain incipient.
Wind:- NE 3 to 4

With the crew of the Malarkey decimated by disease, dissolution, and injury, a small heroic remnant sallied N. across the Lowlands low, the soggy Somerset Levels, to the County's only inland seaport, summoned to muster thereto as one of the warm-up acts for Bridgwater's legendary Carnival.

In the shadow of Admiral Blake (who some historians rank alongside Nelson) we took our turn between Punch & Judy shows, Acrobats, Jugglers, and Steel Bands - but surprisingly gathered a reasonable crowd each time. The good Admiral looked on impassively, shrouded in corrugated iron lest Carnival revellers should damage his dignity (or other bits.)

Equally surprisingly, no mishaps befell us:- Billy Rowlocks demolished no microphones; Eamon Fyre's anti-Napoleon rant incited no visiting French or 'Remainer' revenge; Sam Minella's enthusiastic press-ganging of little children excited no police suspicions; Curly Quill didn't collapse with asphyxiation during 'Chicken on a Raft'; Canon Fodder didn't fall overboard during his foolish attempt to mimic a bowsprit, and wonderfully, Alfredo Heights inspired an outbreak of dancing mania during a toe-tapping 'Bonny Ship the Diamond'.

Helen Highwater, as always, entranced the crowd with her charms, and luckily affirmed her love for British Sailors NOT Soldiers - just as well in Bridgwater where bitter memories remain of the Redcoats' terrible reprisals and slaughter of Monmouth's pitch-fork rebels at the recent Battle of Sedgmoor, and Judge Jeffreys and the Bloody Assize have neither been forgiven nor forgotten.

As noble Shantymen the Buoys were pleased to play a small part in the fantastical Fire-Festival that is Carnival, and without which, locals know, women will not get pregnant, grass not grow next Spring, the dying old Sun never resurrect, and darkness will consume the land eternally.

Stoke Gabriel Community Concert

13th day of October. Year of our Lord 2018

Church of St. Mary & St. Gabriel

Weather:- Brief eye of Storm Callum

Wind:- Southwest f. 10 forecast / var. 3

The Malarkey's full crew disembarked in the ancient Church House Inn to warm up, next to  a mummified sacrificial cat built into the walls - a foundational pagan sacrifice? (we are now in deepest darkest Devon) or a dire warning as to what happens to those who yowl out of tune? Worrying. The nave of the ancient church itself, with its wooden walls and deck beams, and lit by oil lamps, was reassuringly similar to a ship's fo'c's'le.

Some of the more credulous members of the crew, more used to a heaving foredeck than a church, were anxious lest the Almighty might be offended by the more lusty and lecherous of their imaginings, or words not usually heard from the pulpit (tho' frequent in the denunciations of the Prophets) However no thunderbolts of Divine displeasure zapped the buoys, and in fact the wonderful acoustics of the old church enabled the crew to perform their best, with both trademark gusto, and exquisite and melodious harmonisations. Not quite 'angel voices ever singing' but the congregation, more used to chamber music and motets, responded politely and warmly.

And verily our Bosun Curly Quill finished the evening with what could count as an admirable sermon worthy of any clerical pulpit, exhorting " ... don't do sleeping with no W----s, get married instead, and spend all night in bed ...". The Archbishop of Canterbury could not have put it better. As we set sail on 'The Roseabella’ we were delighted to have been of assistance in raising  funds for charitable and good works for the more unfortunate, lonely, and destitute of those shipwrecked by the headwaters of the Dart at Totnes. Canon Fodder, ship's chaplain, earnestly hopes to see the crew embarking again on the (for them) unlikely vessels of piety and mercy and charity.

Jurassic Coast Cruise

13th day of September. Year of our Lord 2018

Inshore Waters, South Devon

Weather:- breezy

Wind:- SW 3 gusting 5

Undiscouraged by distant hurricane warnings out in the Atlantic, or embarking on the thirteenth, the crew shipped aboard the good ship 'Pride of Exmouth' for the fabled Jurassic coast Cruise. The vessel was loaded with geologists, geomorphologists, paleontologists, fossil hunters, pre-historians - and us.

Undeterred by radio-active nodules, contorted strata, or the fact the biggest extinction of life on planet earth is precisely marked by Exmouth, the Buoys demonstrated on the return trip what the lecturers had discoursed of so eloquently outward bound - what old fossils, dinosaur DNA, and Neanderthal men (and grateful women) were capable of. As the 'Pride' rolled gently into the sunset, we proved that genuine sea shanties, like fossils, are almost indestructible, however hammered about, and still have the power to resurrect lives and struggles long past, and (thanks to ESM and all our fellow shanty crews) not quite extinct.

Bromyard Folk Festival

8th Day of September, Year of Grace 2018

Far Northeast of Herefordshire

Weather:- Constant Drizzle

Wind:- Variable 0-2

A pre-dawn raid to the interior. The Malarkey, skilfully piloted by Bosun Curly Quill and foredeck lookout Levi Shore, lurched northward. Despite our apprehensions of furrin parts, the natives received us kindly. Our first shantying was in the sweaty bar of the local Foote-balle Club. (Foote-balle - a barbaric northern sport played with inflated pigge's bladder or enemie's head.) Alien beers however - all nobly and personally tested by our ever-ready anchorman Ank - proved effective lubricants for Exmouth shanties and tonsils, as we aimed, and occasionally hit, high notes and harmonies.

We were then shanghaied and seduced into taking part in a strange local art form and initiation ritual - "Ye Olde Tyme Musik Hall". Skippered by a chairman with a large hammer (less terrifying than a mate with a belaying pin) and firing salvoes of dated blue(ish) jokes; and repartee where the audience gave as good as they got. The Buoys, joining in the raucous spirit of the occasion, discovered their earnest and solemn acting out of erotic and tragicall maritime catastrophes, were received as totally in keeping with the event.

After a final late night concert under canvas (as befits hardened sea-dogs) the Malarkey headed south with her snoring crew all asleep (bar the helmsman hopefully) to pick up her home mooring in the middle of a pitch-dark middle watch at about 3 bells.

Lost Quays Visit to Exmouth