This of course found its way, with a typically playful and funky arrangement onto Burlesque and Jon says, “One of a number of shanties where the influence of African song is very evident.” Burlesque suggests a “fierce debate rages over whether this is a hauling shanty or a cotton screwing shanty.” Mainly Norfolk picks up that notion and it’s interesting to the see the job of cotton screwing described as, “one of the hardest shipboard tasks,” which would have been performed by a land based crew of stevedores. The song may very well have origins around the Southern USA or with the reference to Hilo, the South American seaboard. But you’ll note that this version is akin to The Young Tradition’s recording, which by their own admission added some floating verses. The origins of Marengo or Maringo and its place in this song are less clear, although if you follow down this Mudcat thread you’ll find reference to towns in America, at least one of which was in Alabama and therefore quite possibly at the heart of cotton farming. The town was named after the Battle Of Marengo and apparently settled by French veterans, which might finally make sense of this rather odd title. The battle itself was a land battle fought by Napoleon in Italy, whith no naval action at all, so it’s unlikely to have made a direct leap aboard ship. The battle ended with an Austrian force being defeated, ending that country’s influence in Italy and substantially boosting the French Emporer’s standing. He even named a horse, later captured at Waterloo, after the action and did much else to commemorate the victory, with much post victory spinning. If that’s tweaked your curiosity, you can Wiki here. Of the song, it seems likely Royston Wood rather than Bellamy is the originator of this version.
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