Across the Line


Jon attributes this to an unknown shanty album and is also conscious of adapting it to suit his own needs. “I tweaked the words of this to go with Pete Flood’s arrangement for Bellowhead, and I can’t remember the original words now. It feels like a fairly recent song, maybe mid twentieth century, but as far as I know no one knows of an author – another song bequeathed to ‘the traditional’ by some modest soul presumably.” The Karui trees point this in the direction of New Zealand, with the song also being known as The Sailor’s Way.

The buy links should now work properly. We had some problems with a duplicate track and everything needed to be updated, but I’ve just tested them and they are now OK!

You can buy the digital album now from the following stores:


29 Responses to “Across the Line”

  1. Julia Taylor says:

    This tuneful plaintive number, so tenderly sung, stirred my dead old heart into love of Folk anew.

  2. Nick Hallam says:

    More about Across the Line from the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at the English Folk Dance and Song Society.

    Well we like a challenge! Initially we were struggling to find any reference to this in the Library, but did manage to track down a song of the same title on a record by Phil Garland. On the cover notes he says he was originally collected it under the name The Sailor’s Way.

    When searched on Roud No. 8 records are produced as The Sailor’s Way, Around the World and Home Again and Around Cape Horn and Home Again.

    If you wish to see more detail on each record, change the ‘output’ to ‘record’ and press ‘submit query’.

    It was collected in Yorkshire by Francis Collinson in 1951 from Captain Fox in Cottingham. This is the Around Cape Horn and Home Again version and you can see his original notes from the collection on the Take 6 Archive site.

    To find these go to enter the name of the song into the first empty field, select ‘Title’ from the drop down menu ‘all fields’ and press ‘submit search.

    We use the Roud index and the Take 6 online collections in the search for information on Jon’s selections.

    For more information, or to carry out your own search for songs, please visit

    If you need any help accessing the library online or have any questions, please contact the VWML on 020 7485 2206 or

  3. Nick Hallam says:

    Definitely my personal favourite so far.

  4. Katie Amos says:

    I love the Bellowhead version, but nice to hear it in a different style.

  5. Shelley says:

    What a treat – thank you Jon! Love the Bellowhead version, but great to hear it “stripped down” too.

  6. Jane Ramsden says:

    Strangely this one doesn’t ‘do it’ for me. Preferred Rose in June, if we are doing ships and sailors. I like more bite! And probably more misery..hahahaha!

  7. Peter Walsh says:

    Julia’s comment that it is plaintive and tenderly sung is spot-on. Jon’s got the right amount of misery in his voice on this one, Janie, I think! Save the ‘bite’ for the Saucy sea songs a la Steeleye, which I happen to know you like too, Janie, hahaha!

  8. Peter Walsh says:

    I agree with Jane about Rose In June though, that’s my favourite seabound song on this site so far! If anybody hasn’t listened to that one yet, I urge them to do so NOW. It was the song for 30th June, so it just made it into the right month!

  9. John Burton says:

    Brilliant concept and well sung, I only found the site today (thanks to a Mudcat thread) so I listened to every track to date. When I got to the last track I was so disapointed there were no more.
    Now I only get one a day, ah well, it is worth the wait, especially as this type of material is even harder to find here in Canada.
    The quality is really good Jon, could you give a brief note sometime on what Hardware and Software this is being done with.

  10. caroline jefford says:

    I’m lovin this one…… ah!

  11. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by blank reg, Jon Boden. Jon Boden said: Latest Post: Across the Line […]

  12. Paul Howarth says:

    Definitely a much loved song this one among the folk/shanty fraternity in New Zealand. Interesting to hear Jon’s variations to the words. All the place names in the last verse are (or were) to be found around the South Island of NZ. More information to be found at

  13. Dave Eyre says:

    I once sold a book called Folk Songs of New Zealand – it had a variant of this in. I would have taken more of a note – but assumed it was well-known!

  14. brian says:

    Is this technically a shanty or a sea song? Not nit-picking, just would like to know. Whatever, it sounds good!

  15. Joe Offer says:

    There’s quite an extensive discussion of this song at Mudcat:

    -Joe Offer, The Mudcat Cafe-

  16. muzza(s.e.England) says:

    Why didn’t I comment on this song the first time round!
    It is excellent and Jon sings and plays with just the right ‘pathos’ and weariness………
    and if you check on the links above from Paul and Joe…more information than you can shake a stick at……….

  17. muzza(s.e.England) says:

    Ref the information……I missed out NIck!!!!!..sorry Nick

  18. Jane Ramsden says:

    I do like this one much more on second hearing. Muzza, you got it spot-on with “Jon sings and plays with just the right ‘pathos’ and weariness.”

  19. muzza(s.e.England) says:

    Yep…I’ll have to learn this………and these are the words I’ve settled on..
    added verse from Mudcat and a few word tweaks from the Mudcat comments.

    1) I’ve sailed the whole world over, across the seven seas
    I courted a sweetheart underneath a Kauri tree
    I’ve travelled with the North wind, unto the Bering Strait
    Round the Horn and home again, that is the sailor’s way

    Across the line, the Gulfstream,
    Working your life away
    Round the Horn and home again,
    That is the sailor’s way.

    2) I’ve run aground in many a sound with pilot not aboard.
    Longboat lowered by candlelight, pushed off and gently oared.
    Rowlocks creaking, a thumping swell, a wind to make you ache.
    Who would sail the seven seas and share a sailor’s fate

    3) Across the barren wasteland of the frozen Arctic sea
    Through Polynesian breezes and southern storms sailed we,
    The wind drifts through the rigging, sings a lonely lullaby
    A sailor I have always been, a sailor I will die.

    4) I’ve sailed out to the Northlands, I’ve sailed out to the East
    I’ve skimmed the sail in many a gale, stood in the calmest seas
    Ocean bound by Dusky Sound by Pegasus or the Strait
    Port Cooper, Ocean, Tom Kain Bay, that is the sailor’s way.

    Chorus x 2

  20. Diana says:

    I am more used to Bellowhead’s version but Jon singing solo does a wonderful job. As said before I do love anything connected with the sea and the sailors’ shanties.

    Muzza I do like your additional Verse ie.verse 2.

  21. Old Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    The perfect song for this wonderful summer Sunday morning……
    the old rain thudding against the window pane……and the gusty wind whipping and wrapping my old flag around the pole…….the village carnival today will be blown to bits!
    Surrey feels just like Cape Horn these days….I must mend the hole in me longboat..might need it soon!

  22. Diana says:

    @Muzza poor you, the sun shining here today and yesterday – we must have done something right in this neck of the woods. You can guarantee it – a carnival and the rain comes. Typical summer weather in our country. Don’t build the Ark yet though it may stop raining sometime this millenium.

  23. Old Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    Just clicked on ‘Download to Realplayer’ and somehow managed to get Jon singing in harmony with himself ( a delay of a second)…and it sounded excellent….especially the chorus.

  24. Linda says:

    Like this version beautifully sung.

  25. Diana says:

    Also like Bellowhead’s version.

  26. linda says:

    Still think this is a beautiful version …….(no signs yet Muzza)

  27. Old Muzza(N.W.Surrey) says:

    Nope Lindy Lou…….the Bradford gal has obviously mellowed somewhat as has Daina and Pewter….

  28. Peter Walsh says:

    Pewter’s still here Muzza; posted a question to you under ‘Cruel Mother’. Great to listen to Across The Line again! Posting a comment no longer stops playback too!

  29. Linda says:

    beautiful!!! before you say it Muzza yes it,s sailors again…

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