Hugill says that this originated as a 17th Century English ballad, but was often sung at the pumps.  He has also heard it sung as a version of “Can’t You Dance the Polka”.  The Weavers cleaned it up and had a 1950 hit with “the Roving Kind”.  The late Guy Mitchell also recorded it and got to number 4 in the charts! The original is sometimes known as “The Pirate Ship”.

The Fireship


As I wuz a roll-in' down the High-way one morn,
I spied a flash packet from ol' Wapping town
As soon as I seed her I slacked me main brace,
An' I hoist-ed me stun-sl's an' to her gave chase,

Me rigging un-frayed



Come rattle my rigging down

Come rattle my rigging down Ratcliffe Highway


I fired me bow-chaser, the signal she knew
She backed her main tops'l an' for me hove to'
I lowered down me jolly-boat an' pulled alongside,
An' I found madam's gangway wuz open an' wide.

And me rigging un-frayed




I entered her little cabin, an' swore, "Damn ‘er eyes!"
What was she but a fireship rigged up in disguise;

She had a foul bottom, from sternpost to fore;
'Tween the wind and water she ran me ashore.
Me rigging frayed


Chorus …


Set fire to me rigging, likewise to me hull

And away to the hospital I had to skull

With me helm hard a-starboard as I rolled along

Me shipmates cried out “Jack, yer main yard is sprung …

And yer rigging is frayed”



Now I’m safe in the harbour, me moorings all fast,
I lay here quite snug, boys, till all danger is past;
With me mainyard all served, boys, an’ parcelled an’ tarred,
Wasn't that a stiff breeze when I sprung me mainyard?

And me rigging was frayed