Golden Vanity

Hugill suggests that this song, also sometimes known as The Lowlands Low, The Sweet Trinity or by various other names, seems to be based on a ballad of the seventeenth century “Sir Walter Raleigh Sailing in the Lowlands”. Thee are dozens of versions dating back up to 400 years, collected in England, Scotland, America, to many different tunes. Our version is based on one collected from Travelling People in the Scottish lowlands.

It is Child Ballad 286 and has been extensively recorded on the American and British folk scenes, as far back as the Carter Family in 1935 and Pete Seeger in 1941. It appears in a collection of sea shanties in 1887 (Davis & Tozer, Sailors’ Songs or Chanties). Hugill sang it at capstan and pumps.

The Golden Vanity


I have a ship and she sails upon he sea

And the name of my ship is the Golden Vanity,

And I fear she’ll be taken by the Turkish enemy,

As we sail along the  Lowlands low, low, low,

As we sail along the lowlands low.


Then up and spoke the cabin Boy, a brave young lad was he,

Captain, O my Captain, what will you give to me,

If I sink the Turkish Galley to the bottom of the sea?

As we sail along  ....


O great gold would I give you, and silver more in store,

And the hand of my daughter who waits upon the shore,

If the Turkish galley should trouble us no more,

As we sail along  .....


Then wrap me up me messmates, all in the black bulls hide,

And help me up me messmates, and lower me o’er the side,

And they’ll think I am a dolphin, that’s a-sporting in the tide,

That is swimming in the  ....


So bravely swam the cabin boy, for surely he could swim,

And in his hand an auger, an auger sharp and thin,

And he bored into the galley, for to let the salt sea in,

And he sank her in the  ....


Once he bored, and twice he bored, once and twice and  thrice,

While some were playing cards, and some were playing dice,

And the water it dashed in and it dazzled in their eyes,

And he sank them in the…


Then slowly swam the cabin boy, and slowly back swam he,

Captain, O my Captain, throw me a rope, cried he,

For I’m sinking and I’m drowning all in the cold salt sea,

And I’m drowning in the ....


A rope a rope a rope me lad you’ll never get from me,

And you’ll never wed my daughter, who is so proud and free,

E’en through you sank the galley, the Turk of Ardmoree,

And she’s lying in the ....


Then slowly swam the cabin boy round to the larboard side,

His messmates hoist him up on deck, but on the deck he died,

And they wept and they kissed him, wrapped in the black bull’s hide,

And they buried him in the

Lowlands low, low, low,

They buried him in the lowlands low.