Fire Down Below

Hugill gives several shanties with this name but ours, an American derivative, is a different song altogether.  The song refers obliquely to the knocking shops of The Barbary Coast, which was a red-light district in old San Francisco, California. The neighbourhood quickly took on its seedy character during the California Gold Rush (1848–1858) and was known for gambling, prostitution and crime.

The name Midway Plaisance was later taken by an area of south-side Chicago, originally known (from the World’s Columbian Exhibition in 1893) for its amusements and sideshows .

Fire Down Below


I thought I heard our old man say

Fire down below-oh-oh-oh-ohh, boys
Fire down below

You can go ashore and collect your pay

So I’ll take some clothes and run away

I'll go to my girl down Frisco Bay

I know very well with me she will stay

Because she knows I have twelve month’s pay

And we'll go down to the Midway Plaisance

To see the pretty girls do the hoochy-coochee dance

So I’ll go ashore and get my pay

Then I'll run away at the break of day