All For Me Grog


I can relate to Jon’s comment on this, “I was a bit obsessed by Mike Waterson’s performance of this and wore the vinyl out listening to it obsessively.” The Watersons’ version, massed chorus and all, is really very good and Jon follows their version faithfully. Mainly Norfolk has The Watersons’ version and Bert Lloyd’s Aussie alternative. It’s interesting to spot in the various sleeve notes that this was also found in Nova Scotia and the suggestion of a Music Hall link. This is definitely a seafarers’ song though, as the reference to grog is nautical through and through. For those that don’t know, the mixing of the ration of rum with water was made by Vice Admiral Sir Edward Vernon who was nickname Old Grog because of an impressive grogam cloak he wore on deck in all weather. He made it response to epidemic drunkenness across the fleet and the order was hugely unpopular with the men. We’ve been here before with shanties, but you can immediately find a different set of verses for this, such as this link. It’s also interesting to see this claimed as Irish and I note videos of performances by the Dubliners and The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem are also prominent. I’d suggest this as another song that travelled the world as a work song and may have had many variations, to suit the singers, the situation and the task in hand. There is much ado on Mudcat about this should you wish to explore at length. That thread mentions Roud index no. 475 as  instructive, as this being mostly collected in England, once in Scotland, but not in Ireland.

You can buy the October digital album now from all good download stores:


22 Responses to “All For Me Grog”

  1. muzza says:

    Great little song……..almost makes you want to get some grog and tobacca action.
    Doesn’t watering alcohol make you drunk more quickly as it is absorbed into the bloodstream more quickly?..or are various friends taking advantage of my gullibility!

  2. Neil says:

    This is cracking, October has been a really good month for songs.

  3. Phil says:

    Not heard these words – much more familiar with the ‘catalogue song’ version. A friend of mine sings a verse that begins
    Where is me wife –
    Me hobbin’ nobbin’ wife –

    but for some reason he never sings the rest of it…

  4. Tobysails says:

    Another great one. I agree with Muzza & Neil.
    Nitpicking on the Notes and comments though, it’s a ‘forebitter’ sung for fun rather than a shanty the beat of which keeps the crew hauling in time.
    The point about grog ration is that sailors receieved the same measure as before, so half the amount of booze.
    Chances of survival on board a man of war were often little better than evens, disease and those nasty cannonballs and splinters did for the rest.
    The yellow ‘Q’ flag which is still flown as a ship enters harbour from abroad now means that there is no disease on board. Then the code book also read “I have not had an unreasonable number of deaths on board”.
    How many was that?

  5. SRD says:

    A post I made earlier seems to have gone missing, oh well, let’s try again.
    Alcohol is absorbed according to Fick’s law. but note the last paragraph.

    Regarding the song; I concur with muzza’s comment.

  6. Simon says:

    I bow to your superior knowledge Tobysails with thanks for the correction, but had this as a shanty on account of the repetitive elements and also as there do seem to be a number of extra or interchangeable verses. The latter was the point I guess I was driving at. Is there a rule that nails the difference? As for the sialors life, I posted a link to some naval history a while ago and found it fascinating if grim reading as they undoubtedly had a dreadful time of it.

    SRD, the spamfilter is to blame for the missing comment I’m afraid, but as you seem to have got through at the second attempt, I don’t need to reinstate your original. It does this from time to time, defying any logic, but is also pretty effective at hoovering up the vast amounts of garbage that come our way. I do keep an eye on the spam box to try to rescue genuine posts, but only intermittently. Thanks for the link, although it initially looked a little scary, but the clear implication is that the stronger the drink the less quickly the alcohol is absorbed. Mind you I think we are talking some serious quantities of rocket fuel.

  7. Jan says:

    I learned this one from the Watersons too, but I do like Jon’s rendition vey much. I also have the version with the ‘naggin’ naggin’ wife’, and you wouldn’t sing the rest of it in polite company!

  8. Jane Ramsden says:

    I thought one of the reasons for watering down was that it rendered the rum less ‘keepable,’ so that sailors could not secrete their tot a day, and so get more drunk by drinking it all at once. After all, you’d hardly get drunk on even an undiluted tot a day, would you? Here is some rum stuff from Wiki!

    The association of rum with the Royal Navy began in 1655 when the British fleet captured the island of Jamaica. With the availability of domestically-produced rum, the British changed the daily ration of liquor given to seamen from French brandy to rum. While the ration was originally given neat, or mixed with lime juice, the practice of watering down the rum began around 1740.

    To help minimize the effect of the alcohol on his sailors, Admiral Edward Vernon had the rum ration watered down, a mixture that became known as grog. While many believe the term ‘grog’ was coined in honour of the grogram cloak Admiral Vernon wore in rough weather, the term predates his famous order. It probably originates in the West Indies, perhaps of African etymology.

    The Royal Navy continued to give its sailors a daily rum ration, known as a ‘tot,’ until the practice was abolished after July 31, 1970. Today the rum ration (tot) is still issued on special occasions by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II order ‘Splice the mainbrace!’ Recently, such occasions have been royal marriages/birthdays, or special anniversaries. ‘Splice the main brace’ in the days of the daily ration meant double rations that day.

    A story involving naval rum is that following his victory at the Battle of Trafalgar, Horatio Nelson’s body was preserved in a cask of rum to allow transport back to England. Upon arrival, however, the cask was opened and found to be empty of rum. The pickled body was removed and, upon inspection, it was discovered that the sailors had drilled a hole in the bottom of the cask and drunk all the rum, in the process drinking Nelson’s blood. Thus, this tale serves as a basis for the term Nelson’s Blood’ being used to describe rum. It also serves as the basis for the term ‘tapping the Admiral’ being used to describe drinking the daily rum ration. The details of the story are disputed, as many historians claim the cask contained French brandy, whilst others claim instead the term originated from a toast to Admiral Nelson. Variations of the story, involving different notable corpses, have been in circulation for many years.

    The Royal New Zealand Navy was the last naval force to give sailors a free daily tot of rum. The Canadian Navy still gives a rum ration on special occasions; the rum is usually provided out of the CO’s fund and is 150 proof. (Maybe you would get drunk on that, especially if saved up! – Jane R) It is consumed on the order ‘up spirits’.

  9. Jane Ramsden says:

    Ref the apochryphal story above, about Nelson’s body being shipped back to England in rum or brandy (Napoleon would be ironic!), this does indeed seem to have happened to one of the Weller family as per my link about Wellermen under ‘My Johny’s Gone To Hilo’ a few days ago:

    “In 1834 Joseph Jr. became ill with TB and died and, because there was not yet a Christian burial ground or minister anywhere in Otago, his young brother Edward pickled his corpse in a puncheon of rum and shipped it back to Sydney for burial. So Edward Weller became manager of Weller’s Otakou establishment when he was only twenty years of age.”

    I read with interest SRD’s information on alcohol absorption acc to Fick’s Law (glad I got that right!) In a nutshell, if alcohol is diluted, the faster it is absorbed and hits the bloodstream. So much for mixers then! Though the amount of actual alcohol will still only be the same amount. More concentrated alcohol takes longer to absorb. No doubt this is why people sometimes don’t realise until too late they have overstepped the mark and why it is potentially dangerous.

    It also dispels the myth about drinking lots of black coffee to counteract the effects of feeling drunk. Any diluting liquid consumed will make you feel more drunk, as it aids the alcohol reaching the bloodstream faster. So the watering down was either to reduce the amount of rum in the daily ration, diminish its keepability, or both. Glad I’m no longer groggy about that! Hahahaha!

  10. Jane Ramsden says:

    Footnote: Had to look up ‘puncheon!’

    In Trinidad and Tobago, the term ‘puncheon’ is used to describe Puncheon Rum, which is a high proof heavy-type rum. Three local brands, Forres Park, Caroni and Stallion produce bottles that are 75% alcohol by volume. (No wonder it needed diluting!)

    The puncheon (also called ‘pon’ for brevity in The States) is an old English unit of wine cask, holding 318.226432 litres. It’s bigger than a hogshead, though some 40 litres short of 3 standard barrels, but considerably less than a butt! Glad that’s clear! It is also known as a ‘tertian’ (from the Latin word for third, because three of it make a tun) and as a ‘firkin’ when it holds wine. Always wondered precisely what a firkin was!

  11. muzza(S.E.England) says:

    Pon my soul Jane, all the above was a rum do………thank you for the Firkin explanation.
    Here’s a good old rowdy chorus song:-

    Oh, a drop of Nelson’s blood wouldn’t do us any harm (3x)
    And we’ll all hang on behind.
    So we’ll roll the old chariot along
    An’ we’ll roll the old chariot along.
    So we’ll roll the old chariot along
    An’ we’ll all hang on behind!

    Replace “a drop of Nelson’s blood” with:
    – a tankard full of Ale x3….+ chorus
    – a little jug of wine x3….+chorus
    – a little keg of gin
    – a bottle full of scotch
    – a tumble in the hay
    – a plate of irish stew
    – a night upon the shore


    Oh, a little mug o’ beer wouldn’t do us any harm etc.
    Oh, a plate of Irish stew wouldn’t do us any harm etc.
    Oh a little slug of gin wouldn’t do us any harm etc.
    Oh a night upon the shore wouldn’t do us any harm etc.
    Oh a little drop of wine wouldn’t do us any harm etc.
    Oh, a plateful of plumduff wouldn’t do us any harm etc.
    Oh, a long spell in gaol wouldn’t do us any harm etc.
    Oh, a nice watch below wouldn’t do us any harm etc.
    Oh, a night with the gals wouldn’t do us any harm etc.

  12. muzza(S.E.England) says:

    October 21st 1805……….Battle of Trafalgar..three cheers for the brave lads!

  13. Phil says:

    “A big mucky blonde” scans nicely (not my own suggestion!). Or, late on in a singaround, “Another song from X” (as long as X hasn’t had too many already).

  14. Diana says:

    What a jolly song!

  15. Mark says:

    A chap called Johnny who goes under the stage name 30lbs of Bone does a lovely, downbeat, slow version of this. You can listen to it here:

  16. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Muzza: ‘Pon my soul – hahaha! – what a pun-cheon! You and Phil had me chortling again with your variations. Loved Big Al Davies – great photographs contained in the video – and the 30lbs of Bone version was just firkin lovely.

  17. muzza(S.E.England) says:

    @Phil……..big mucky blonde sounds good to me…………
    but is in no way related to my next comment that..”30lbs of Bone”…went right over my head and I struggled to link it with “All for me grog”

  18. Diana says:

    Still think this is a great song. Jon’s version is the best of a large array of alternatives wordwise.

  19. Old Muzza(N.W.Surrey UK) says:

    Hi Diana….it has only taken me five years to realise that I need to point out to you that Jon’s ‘All for me grog’ song is a different song from ‘ a drop of Nelson’s blood’ and so the words are completely different………I get there in the end!…..both are good old chorus songs

  20. Old Muzza(N.W.Surrey UK) says:

    Just watched (1 hour +) Jon and Rems at Manchester folk festival via Jon’s facebook page

  21. Linda says:

    Hope you enjoyed it Muzza….also watched it and have tickets for one of the tour shows

  22. oldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    My Goodness….all for me Grog…..just looking at the excellent videos detailing anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar makes you think that JUG of grog would be more than welcome to get through those horrific days

Your Reply

Warning: Undefined variable $user_ID in /customers/a/0/f/ on line 121