Rambling Sailor


You’ll find a version of this on the first Bellowhead release EP Onymous and as Jon says, “I normally sing this with a pumping accompaniment of one sort or another. Strange but very enjoyable to have a go at singing it like a folk song again!” He attributes this version to Maddy Prior and Tim Hart who recorded it on their debut Folk Songs Of Old(e) England. Lyrically there seem to be two variations, with either the sailor jilting his various conquests or getting his comeuppance and being robbed whilst sleeping. As such this link is rather informative and you’ll also find plenty at Mudcat. There also seems to be a soldier variant and at least one alternate title of Young Johnson.

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:


28 Responses to “Rambling Sailor”

  1. Jane Ramsden says:

    I know this song from the same source as Jon and have it on Tim Hart and Maddy Prior’s solo recordings CD (though I prefer Saucy Sailor from Below The Salt). But you can get a jaunty lilt to this one in unaccompanied singing!

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Shelley Rainey. Shelley Rainey said: RT @folksongaday: Latest Post: Rambling Sailor http://www.afolksongaday.com/2010/07/13/rambling-sailor/ […]

  3. Peter Walsh says:

    I love the rousing version on Spiers & Boden’s Through and Through CD, which I found by searching on Spotify. This site throws up some intriguing versions, including an old sounding one by Chris Willett (who sang with his father Tom on Topic Records 1962 album The Roving Journeyman), which has many of the same lyrics as Jon sings for us today. Even some songs called The Female Rambling Sailor are on Spotify too! Like Jane, I knew the Tim Hart / Maddy Prior version; many thanks to her for lending me that CD!
    We have somebody in our local Operatic Society who has an eerily similar voice to Jon’s, so it’s like hearing a friend singing these songs to me every morning! Most enjoyable!

  4. Nick Hallam says:

    More about The Rambling Sailor from the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at the English Folk Dance and Song Society.

    There are 104 records of The Rambling Sailor in the Library having been collected all over the country including land-bound counties such as Bedfordshire and Oxfordshire – the sailor clearly rambled everywhere.


    When searched on Round No. it actually reduces to 101 as it omits The Female Rambling Sailo (there’s obviously a story there in itself). There are however versions from Florida (Billy the Rambling Sailor) and Australia.


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

    There are 9 results in the Take 6 Archive, collected by Butterworth, Hammond and Gardiner. One version collected in 1906 in, appropriately, Southampton by George Gardiner from Job Read is called I am a Sailor Stout and Bold.

    To find these go to http://library.efdss.org/archives/cgi-bin/search.cgi 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 http://www.efdss.org/front/access-the-library-online/access-the-library-online/115
    If you need any help accessing the library online or have any questions, please contact the VWML on 020 7485 2206 or library@efdss.org.

  5. Anna says:

    I wasn’t sure how much swagger could be put into an unaccompanied version, but it still works! Thank you, Jon, I’m really enjoying this project.

  6. Phil says:

    Terrific! It’s great when you can hear the rhythm as well as the melody in an unaccompanied voice. I wonder if this project is going to change the way Jon sings when he goes back to the (accompanied) day-job?

  7. […] Rambling Sailor « A Folk Song A Day […]

  8. Ollie says:

    Lovely version of a wonderful song, and a nice little tribute to the great and much missed Tim Hart, from whom I first heard this song. It also appears to be keeping the Arran sweatered grumps at bay. Keep up the good work Jon, and thanks for this; most of us are enjoying it immensely.

  9. Phil says:

    It also appears to be keeping the Arran sweatered grumps at bay.

    Was that entirely necessary?

  10. Steve says:

    I’m really enjoying this project. Wondered if anyone else is having problems with the Pocasts. So far this one hasn’t appeared in my itunes.

  11. Shelley says:


    (I haven’t received the podcast today either)

  12. Hilary says:

    Absolutely wonderful version of a great favourite! Terrific rhythmic and vocal work, thank you.

  13. Stephen Witkowski says:

    I have the podcast for this in Itunes as well as the one for tomorrow.

    I love this version.

  14. My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

  15. maggie boyle says:

    I have just happened upon this project. Where have I been?! Brilliant stuff.
    I will re-visit as often as possible…catch some great songs….boo/hiss at my screen when people say silly stuff, like some of the mercedes comments… Think I’ll make a bet with myself on how young your most recent folk song will end up being!
    Top inspirational work. As always.

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

    Modest as ever……….neery a mention here but Bellowhead and Jon and John were on “Mike Harding” 13July 2011

  17. Linda says:

    Just listened to Mike Harding. Can recommend The Works CD Got it on Tuesday and am really enjoying it. Managed to get Through n Through last week ,am spoilt for choice. I also like this version of the Rambling sailor.

  18. Jane Ramsden says:

    I enjoyed this so much more the second time around. Well sung, Jon! Tried to ‘like’ it on the FaceBook link too, but got an error message.

    If we are doing new releases and songs of sailors, Steve Knightley’s ‘Live In Somerset’ is a wonderful recently-released CD with songs of ‘the sea, the land and the downright miserable,’ as Mr K says himself.

    In particular, the second track is ‘John Harrison’s Hands’ (McNeil/Gaughan) as per the Harrison of ‘Longitude’ fame, of which some discussion further on in this folk project.

    And for where this project came in, there are two marvellous tracks of Steve singing unaccompanied – the first track, ‘All Things Are Quite Silent’ – and track 9, an absolutely superb rendition of his ‘Galway Farmer.’

    Thnx, Linda, for reminding me about the new Spiers & Boden CD ‘The Works’ though, as it’s now on my list!

  19. Jane Ramsden says:

    I have re-listened to Steve Knightley’s ‘Live In Somerset’ again and his ‘Banks and Braes’ is also unaccompanied. For those who particularly like that, this CD is a chance to hear Steve differently from Show of Hands.

  20. Diana says:

    Like this song but prefer Spiers and Boden’s livelier version. It needs some musical accompaniment to get the full effect.

  21. Linda says:

    Hey I ve been listening for a full year, still listening to Mike Harding and still enjoying Jon.s singing although this week has been an Orfeo week.

  22. Linda says:

    Still here and enjoying Jon’s singing and also the Revival CD. By the way Sam Sweeney CD on Amazon for pre order!
    Muzza where are you could do with some company.

  23. Diana says:

    Like this one very much and often listen to it.

  24. Steve Cutts says:

    I’m sorry if this is slightly irreverent but I’m afraid the song always reminds me of someone I used to work with 40 years ago. Butlins arcade Minehead. Late 70’s. Rob would spend the day chatting up the young ladies that came into the arcade. Come closing time, there were up to 6 coming back, asking for him, saying he’d take them for a drink. He’d already left with another girl.

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

    Blimey Steve…………..they must have been desperate young ladies to go for a drink with such an old fella….unless they were ‘gold diggers’ and hoping for a cheap evening with no risk of shenanigans……………….at least they’d get a good night’s sleep with an old fella!!
    )Oh …..just with me then!)

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  28. Linda says:

    That time of year again… Sam Sweeney has another CD for pre order on Amazon…Hi Muzza must be them sailors again!!!!

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