Captain Ward


Jon confesses, “I think this is the only pirate song I know (apart from When I Was One). Shameful. I’ll try and learn The Flying Cloud I reckon.” Well it may be his only one, but it’s a good one and some of you will know the version that appears on Vagabond. It also seems to be known as Captain Ward And The Rainbow and is a close relative Child Ballad #287. Jon refers to Bellamy in the brief Vagabond note and that in turn led me to Mainly Norfolk, where Bellamy called the song Ward The Pirate. I’ve found that on Fellside’s Fair Annie double CD set on which Bellamy accompanies himself on guitar, according to the notes in “a bottleneck blues tuning.” The notes also repeat those on Reinhard’s site suggesting the Vaughan Williams, Norfolk route for this. This Wiki link seems to be pretty much the lyrical set that Jon (from Bellamy) has, but there’s a long and interesting Mudcat thread here that has various hooks. Not least is that the ballad obviously has much older roots and may date to the mid to late C17th (1680 in this form), shortly after Ward’s death. I found the lack of historical detail on Ward a concern although The Rainbow seems to be positively identified. But the vagaries of his life and demise seemed strange. I note a suggestion somewhere down that Mudcat thread of trained British pirates, but then I came across this link that really threw the cat amongst the pigeons, with the continuing revelation that as usual I know nothing. I’m becoming wary of accepting things on face value that so obviously seem to have an agenda so was also pleased to eventually drag this Wiki page up as at least partial confirmation. There’s more to this pirating business than I thought but still… “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.”
You can buy the January digital album now from all good download stores.


20 Responses to “Captain Ward”

  1. muzza (s.e.England says:

    Arrrrr..harrrrrr Simon Lad………when it comes to findin’ the truth…there be dragons waiting for ye out there!

  2. Shelley says:

    First song I’ve known for a while, as I have “Vagabond”. This is a very different rendition from the exciting stomping Spiers and Boden one, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It seems to have become quite a popular song to do recently – it features on the Rachael McShane album and the Demon Barber’s latest too, where it is the title track.

    And an admin point – January Man and Daddy Fox are listed in my iTunes as 2010 which means they were lurking at the bottom of the list and I would really like them in the right place! Can anything be done?

  3. Reinhard says:

    No worries, muzza. Simon will just have Jon sing John Kirkpatrick’s “Saint George” and the dragon problem is no more.

  4. Brian Leach says:

    Waterson Carthy’s Captain Kidd is another good pirate song. This one didn’t get away with it though..

  5. LadyD says:

    Captain Ward…my favorite song about a pirate. 😉
    Love this version as much as the one from vagabond.

  6. Simon says:

    Shelley and anyone else sorry for the January songs problem. It has been fixed so try and download them again. It’s a bit like those first cheques of the year that you used to write (perhaps you still do?)

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

    Because the song for the 8th has not arrived yet I am obliged to say that Cpt Ward was telling porkies……..The Rainbow only had a crew of 250….was there space for another 1,050? (for info…..HMS Victory was big and had 850 crew).
    Then he killed 300…….that still left 1,ooo to fight…so how big was his ship and crew for goodness sake! Simon..see what delays can bring’s only a song after all!

  8. Simon says:

    I had noted it Muzza, but hate to take issue with the content of a song. As you say, it is just a song and doubtless open to the folk process to boot, which probably leads to some dramatic exagerration or hasty improvisation that then gets passed on. Surely the only way to correct it is to sing a more accurate version and pass that on, regretably in my case I think few would listen.

  9. Diana says:

    Another great piratical sea shanty. Have got Spiers & Boden’s rendition of this which is faster and perhaps a touch more jolly ho ho ho and a bottle of rum.

  10. Diana says:

    Simon I have approached this song from a different perspective mainly for my own interest and whether it holds any interest for anyone else remains to be seen. Well here goes!

    The Rainbow a galleon of the English Royal Navy was built by Peter Pett at Deptford Dockyard, and was launched in 1586. It fought against the Spanish Armada and had 34 magazine and 6 smaller guns. It took an active role in three of the Anglo-Dutch wars of the 17th century.

    It was sunk as a breakwater in Sheerness in 1680.

    The title HMS was not used until he middle of the 18th century.

  11. Diana says:

    Have just spotted a mistake. Not “magazine” should read “major”. I can’t read my own handwriting sometimes cos I rush too much.

  12. muzza (N.W Surrey) says:

    @Daina….only 34 magazines among all those fellas…….they should have raided some Dentist/doctors waiting rooms…small wonder there was unrest!

  13. Dainer says:

    Lovely to see you back, was getting quite worried about you. Have typed a few messages to you and coudnl’t understand why no response. You are usually such a regular, dare I say it “common tater”. Trust you to get hold of the wrong end of the stick and not read my correction. Did they have magazines or even docs and dentists’ waiting rooms in that time? What no song today?

  14. Dainer says:

    Muzza have just been back-tracking and have discovered your message. A good time was had by all, or at least some. Those late nights or rather early mornings do tend to take it out of you don’t they? Did I get your name right on the broadcast because it was very hard to land on the right spot when trying to move 2hrs 40 odd mins into it and I kept jumping around cos it was very fine tuning.

  15. muzza (N.W Surrey) says:

    @Dainer……..yep….name right from interview………
    always here, listening to the daily FSAD…….as are most of the regulars…..but it takes a v**t , a mis-spelling, a mis-understanding, news of Ted’s cats or one of Admin Simon’s b****r’s to tempt me to comment.

  16. Jane Ramsden says:

    Since I am still awaiting moderation for my 2nd comment under ‘Old Brown’s Daughter,’ I will reprise a part of it under here. My first comment was about finally getting the folk and music hall connection, with a mention of former PM John Major’s book ‘My Old Man.’ I then moved to a shameless plug for Mike Harding and his services to folk.

    Firstly, I did not know that he has produced a series of historical folklore ‘little books’ described on Amazon (in 2008) thus:

    “Mike Harding’s first four Little Books for Aurum, published nine years ago – Gargoyles, Green Men, Misericords and Stained Glass – have each sold between 20,000 and 30,000 copies and been reprinted numerous times. Now at last, as Aurum also re-jackets and re-launches these original books, Mike Harding publishes four new titles, with a stunning new cover treatment. The first, Angels, features Harding’s own superb colour photographs of angels in stained-glass windows, alabaster statues and painted ceilings in churches and chapels all over Britain, as well as locations further afield, such as San Raphael in Venice. They range from remarkable mediaeval art like the lute-playing angels at Cawston in Suffolk, through Victorian angels by William Morris in Derbyshire, to modern stained-glass angels by the great glassmaker Harry Clarke at Sturminster Newton in Dorset. As with all Mike Harding’s Little Books, this is a beautiful little gift book as well as an erudite monograph, at a superbly competitive impulse-buy price. Mike Harding is a comedian and radio broadcaster who has a weekly show on Radio 2 on folk music and presents the annual British Folk Awards. He lives in West Yorkshire.”

    The other 3 books are about Tombs & Monuments, Devils and Demons, and Miracles & Marvels. I am omitting the Amazon link, as this may well be the offending part of my original comment, causing it to require moderating! I am also splitting the original comment in two, just in case it was too long, and as that also has a web link. That’s my second shameless MH plug, for his new podcast.

  17. Jane Ramsden says:

    For those that don’t know, whilst not ‘pirate,’ Mike Harding has now risen like a phoenix from the flames of the Beeb and has his own weekly podcast programme ‘from t’garden shed.’ You can access past and present broadcasts (which actually go out 5pm each Sunday) via this link:

    You can also follow Mike on Facebook. Indeed, the assisting ‘umpa lumpas in’t shed’ would be very pleased if more people ‘liked’ Mike’s page, so they can get let out for the weekend! I think the podcast is going to be a success, despite possible nefarious interference from person or persons unknown/unspecified for the first two podcasts, which massive bandwidth should easily have withstood. I would not like to think the Beeb would stoop so low but, whoever it is, they clearly think Mike and his podcast are a folk-force to be reckoned with. Yeh! 50 sheds of grey it certainly won’t be, so join in! Lol.

  18. Linda says:

    Like this song including the version done by Damien Barber. [Yes Muzza it’s a sailor again! Happy New Year all.]

  19. Muzza+431days (NW Surrey-UK) says:

    A glitch, a glitch…………I love a good glitch…….how long will it take for Admin Simon to realise that the song for the 8th not up yet?………I’m still finding it hard to realise that 2012 comments are not the current ones!!!! how long before I recognise it is now 2013!!

  20. Diana says:

    Still a great sea shanty.

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