Handsome Cabin Boy

A popular broadside ballad of shipboard carryings-on. Sung by Louis Killen (among others) whose version derives from that sung by one of the greatest ballad singers of all times, Jeannie Robertson of Aberdeen. Found all over England as well as Scotland.



The Handsome Cabin Boy

It's of a pretty fair maid as you shall understand

Her had a mind for roving unto some foreign land

Attired in sailor’s clothing she boldly did appear 

And engaged with the captain to serve him for a year

She engaged with the captain a cabin boy to be

The wind it was in favour so they put out to sea

The captain's lady being on board, she did it much enjoy

So glad the captain had engaged such a handsome cabin boy

So nimble was this pretty maid, she done her duty well

But hark what followed after, as she herself can tell

The captain with that pretty maid did often kiss and toy

For he soon  found out the secret of his handsome cabin boy

Her lips they were like roses, her hair all in a curl

The sailors often smiled and said, "she looks just like a girl"

But eating captain's biscuits, her colour did destroy

And the waist did swell of pretty Nell, the handsome cabin boy

Twas in the Bay of Biscay, our gallant ship did plough

One night among the sailors there was an awful row

They tumbled from their hammocks, for sleep it did destroy

They swore about the groaning of the handsome cabin boy

"Oh doctor, dear, oh doctor", the cabin boy did cry

The sailors swore by all that’s good, the cabin boy would die

The doctor came a-runnin', and smilin' at the fun

For to think a sailor lad should have a daughter or a son

The sailors, when they saw the joke, they all did stand and stare

“This child belongs to none of us”, they solemnly did swear

The captain's wife she says to him "My dear I wish you joy

For it's either you or me's betrayed the handsome cabin boy"

So each man took his tot of rum, and drunk success to trade

And likewise to the cabin boy, who was neither man nor maid

"Here's hoping wars don't rise again, our sailors to destroy

And here's hoping for a jolly lot more like the handsome cabin boy"