Row, Bullies Row

A very favourite capstan song in Liverpool ships, it is of Irish origin and Hugill says it was usually sung in an imitative Irish or Liverpool Irish fashion. It probably dates from the 40s, since it was popular in the Western Ocean packets. Three tunes were used with variations among different sailing groups (Tyne, Liverpool, Bristol Channel, London, etc.). Hugill says it might also have been a whalers’ rowing song.



Row, Bullies Row (often known as Liverpool Judies or sometimes The Towrope Girls)

When I was young lad I sailed with the rest
On a Liverpool packet bound out to the west
We anchored one day in the harbour of Cork
Then put out to sea for the port of New York

And it's row, row bullies row
Them Liverpool Judies have got us in tow
For 42 days we were hungry and sore
The winds were against us, the gales they did roar
Off Battery Point we did anchor at last
Our jib boom hove in and our canvas all fast
And it's row, row bullies row…
The boardinghouse masters came aboard in a trice
A shouting and a promising all that was nice
Til one fat old crib took a liking to me
Says he you're a fool, lad, to follow the sea
And it's row, row bullies row…
Says he there's a job as is waiting for you
With lashings of liquor and beggar-all to do
Says he what you say lad, will you ? or two
Says I you old bastard, I'm damned if I do
And it's row, row bullies row…
But the best of intentions they never goes far
After thirty two days at the door of the bar
I tossed off me liquor and what do you think
That rotten old bastard had doctored me drink
And it's row, row bullies row…
Next I remember I woke in the morn
On a the three skysail yarder bound south round Cape Horn
With an old set of oilskins and two pair of socks
And an IOU nailed to the lid of my box
And it's row, row bullies row…
So come all you young sailors take a warning by me
Keep your eye on the drink when liquor is free
And pay no attention to runner or whore
when your hat’s on your heard and your feet on the shore
And it's row, row bullies row…