Grey Funnel Line


Bonus track: Grey Funnel Line (After show session live at Courtyard Arts, Hereford, 19th Feb 2011 with The Remnant Kings + audience)

Jon credits the Silly Sisters as his source saying. “Maddy and June’s version is unbeatable, but this is also a great song for harmonies, if it doesn’t drag too much. Cyril Tawney certainly knew how to write ’em.”

I’ll add an amen to that. Mainly Norfolk covers the recordings and we have Cyril’s own thoughts on the song here. It gives a marvellous insight into the creative process and the sailor’s life in one hit, I’m much taken with the idea that it’s the first evening aboard ship, with the prospect of many more to come that generates the deepest feeing. Like so many things, the first hurdle is the toughest.
You can buy the February digital album now from all good download stores.


32 Responses to “Grey Funnel Line”

  1. John Evans says:

    Another cracker! Also a great version of this on the double CD set “Bringing It All Back Home”, sung by Emmylou Harris, Dolores Keen and Mary Black. Some other great tracks on this double CD set as well. Would love to see the BBC TV series repeated some time soon. Well done John! AFSAD sees me through the week!

  2. John Evans says:

    That should be spelt Keane ……Oops, sorry Dolores!

  3. Jane Ramsden says:

    I, too, came to this song via Silly Sisters and that rendition does rather stay with you. Have to say though, that you sang this so wonderfully well, Jon – brilliant enunciation – that it more than fairly stacks up! Absolutely lovely! I’ve just listened to it twice, & it has my vote for this month’s song so far! The Cyril Tawney self-penned notes were the icing on the musical cake, so thanks for that, Admin.

    @Skyman: Since we are on the sea again, I can tell you I have heard the first of 4 audio parts of ‘Longitude’. Not sure how it compares to the actual book, but an absolutely briiliant description of what latitude & longitude are as an opener, what the historical problem was, and the great toll it took on the lives of men at sea. (I have already been out and bought a month’s supply of vitamin C, as I am sure I have scurvy… I jest not! I am feeling quite well however, despite that, as buoyed up by seeing Phil Beer last night at Otley Courthouse. The fair Miranda was ill, so not able to appear with him… I do hope she has not got the scurvy as well…)

  4. Shelley says:

    Just love this song, and Jon certainly gives a great rendition of it.

  5. Peter Little says:

    There are so many songs about the Merchant Navy (the ‘real’ navy) that I suppose it’s only fair for there to be at least one about the Royal Navy. A great rendition, to boot 🙂

  6. Simon says:

    Jane More lime in your G&Ts methinks, but glad you’re into it. I’m glad people are enjoying this, Cyril’s songs have been a real find.

  7. Patrick Rose says:

    I’m scared Jon. I sung this last night at the folk choir for the first time last night.

    You did the same with Hanging Johnny. Please stop.

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

    I’m with you Patrick…..I have just done my version of GFL and blow me if Jon Pitches up on the day I was going to post it……spooky…..It’s a great song.
    Incidently, I was discussing this song with a young lady folk singer after her performance, she sang it beautifully, but had no idea what it was about!

  9. Mark says:

    I hadn’t realised it was ‘set’ on the first day at sea. Makes it rather sadder, I think – there’s an awful long way to go: it’s only the first day, but it’s just ‘one more day’ already.

    Excellent work Jon. I’d recommend Jolie Holland’s version of this on the Rogue’s Gallery CD, if anyone hasn’t heard it, woozy and lovely.

  10. Joe Fineman says:

    I have often heard the refrain of the last verse changed from “It’s one more day…” to a repetition of “And sail the Grey Funnel Line no more”, and that seems more final to me. However, I see that Tawney’s book has it the way it is sung here, so I guess that’s right.

  11. Diana says:

    Lovely but mournful. Nicely sung though.

    Reynard I am sorry to say that the Mainly Norfolk link above does not work. You get “Object not found” and Error 404. MN can be reached via Google but there are no lyrics available.

  12. John Biggs (Welsh Marches) says:

    As Jon says, Cyril certainly new how to write ’em, and this, in my humble opinion, is his best. Home sickness is an awful feeling when you are hundreds of miles from home and loved ones. This song expresses the feeling better than any other I know. Yes, it goes away in time, but the slightest thing, a word, a sound, a scene, and back come the emotions again, gnawing at your inside.
    Beautifully sung Jon, just right again.
    It is our group’s singing session tonight at The Crown, Longtown. Might give this one an outing !

  13. Diana says:

    Hi John up to your old tricks again with the spelling, I now you now how to spell.

  14. Reynard says:

    Diana, the link worked last year but the song has moved since then. I’ve set a redirect now pointing to its proper place. For the lyrics send me an email; I’m not sure if I’m allowed to show Cyril’s lyrics in public.

  15. Muzza(NW Surrey.UK) says:

    Come on—lurch with me through my version…
    see those fingers fly as I search tentatively for the notes………and attention to detail..well…….a destroyer on the TV and a sailors shirt and hat………..I’m spoiling you!

  16. Diana says:

    Muzza I followed your link as requested, and could tell you were singing the song just for me. I liked the ship in the background. You did a lovely rendition of the “Grey Funnel Line” so well done you! I have the “Cutty Sark” in a bottle, so please don’t say it must be a gigantic sized bottle will you? I went on the real one at Greenwich. The best one is the HMS Victory but I would not have liked to have sailed on her as the crew’s quarters ceilings were low and altogether cramped for space.

  17. Linda says:

    @Muzza. joint viewing me and hubby thoroughly enjoyed your rendition.
    @Diana, Colin able to go back to work fortnight today!

  18. Linda says:

    Any plans for a bonus song for the 29th Jon?

  19. Diana says:

    @Linda: that is really good news. I expect Colin in particular will be glad to get back to work. It is over two months now that he has been at home isn’t it? I know it was before Christmas that he had his accident.

    That’s a very good question Linda with Leap Year upon us. Jon may not have taken that into consideration cos this site wasn’t running 4 years ago.

    It is nice to put a face to a name isn’t it? I have managed to see Muzza on a link
    three times now although the first time it was mostly a pair of red gloves and his back I saw.

  20. Reynard says:

    Very nicely done, Muzza!

    Linda, Diana: the monthly schedule often held some tentative titles, so it may well be that Jon has a few already recorded songs up his sleeve that he could slip in for February 29.

    Or maybe he’ll rewrite The Twenty-Third of March to The Twenty-Ninth of February?

  21. Muzza(NW Surrey.UK) says:

    @Diana…..a face that only a mother could love!
    (Thank you all for your kind words…you do realise that these could encourage me to add to my 29 videos…I’ve got to get’em out there before I pop me clogs)…and I always put the words there for you to join in.

  22. Diana says:

    Muzza do you mean my face or your face that only a mother could love? I must confess I told you a lie yesterday – quite unintentionally though. I said I had the “Cutty Sark” – wrong ship it’s the “Bounty”. I was undecided which one to get but plumped for the “Bounty”. All the rest was true. You have more fans now.

  23. Muzza (N.W.Surrey-UK) says:

    @Diana….(a year late!)….my face of course me deario…………just looked again at my link and what an actor……really got into the soul of a despondent, ‘off we go again and I don’t wanna be here’ sailor…with a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp…and the black and white media was to add effect…..
    nice to hear GFL again as AFSAD reminds us.

  24. Linda says:


  25. Diana says:

    Now Muzza don’t put yourself down. Nowt wrong with your face me dear.

    Another well sung song.

  26. Diana says:

    Nicely sung but just a tad doleful.

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

    Oh yes it old version of Grey Funnel Line

  28. Marcye Britt says:

    Have loved this tune since Silly Sisters and delighted to hear this version by Jon. A special treat was hearing this sung live by Richard & Teddy Thompson when they closed their show in Ridgefield Connecticut. Spellbinding.

  29. oldMuzza NWSurrey UK says:

    I wonder if Naval recruitment dropped off when Cyril’s song came out in 1959
    Ha…..I note that I reposted my Youtube version…has this lad no shame!

  30. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Nope….abso-bloomng-lutely no shame…..ref the video….very impressed that I played the bass chords….no idea how I did that……’s usually plink plonk plink plonk on two buttons!

  31. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Enjoyed Jon’s version and good to see my old efforts yet again….forgotten how to post vids on youtube….

  32. OldMuzza(NW Surrey UK) says:

    Blimey..still impressed that I played the base notes…gonna relearn the words and see if I can still do it!…such a poignant song

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