Farewell Sweet Lovely Nancy


Jon confesses, “I never got around to learning this, possibly because it seems a bit silly to learn Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy and  Farewell Lovely Nancy, but it’s a lovely melody so thought I might as well.”

I’d suggest that Jon picked this up from Tim Hart as it’s his version that he follows, although he credits Tim and Maddy. There isn’t much difference anyway,  save for an extra verse confirming the going away again, which seems a little superfluous to the plot and is more of a singers devise for bringing the song to a close. I’m intrigued by this idea of women dressing up as sailors as I think I’ve probably mentioned before. And lest you get any ideas, I simply mean in songs like this, wondering whether there was any truth to it. It seems possibly so, but as it was far from the official position no records are available to confirm it. Also other than songs there are no accounts either. Someone may have researched this a little more than I have time for, so any comments and details to flesh out the story will be duly appreciated. There is this link – worth a look, although it hardly makes it all crystal. Anyway, the hour is late, a pint might soothe a ticklish throat and Mainly Norfolk has plenty to keep you occupied for a while. So after yesterday’s marathon, I’ll keep this one in check.



22 Responses to “Farewell Sweet Lovely Nancy”

  1. maggie says:

    Lovely to hear this again.

  2. Cherry says:

    there is indeed evidence of women doing this- mostly for their own benefit rather than to follow some sweetheart. I forget her name but there was one who managed to persuade the government to give her a pension!

  3. Shelley says:

    Lovely, and another one for my list!

  4. Jan says:

    Cherry, that was Mary Lacy – I have her autobiography (a modern edition, but first published in1773). The blurb says ‘chronicles her seafaring adventures and gives a fascinating insight into the hardships of ordinary sailors in the 18th century Navy. For her these were compounded by having to pretend to be a man. She nonetheless earned a name as a strong and reliable worker and, back on dry land, became an accomplished ship builder.’

    Confirmation, Simon?

    And I hadn’t heard this particular song before – nice one, Jon.

  5. Simon says:

    Thanks Cherry and Jan. I’ll search for the book at some point when I have a moment as that sounds like something I’d like to get to grips with.

  6. Jane Ramsden says:

    Yes, I think I would enjoy that book as well! Liked the song too, Jon!

    If Phil Beer’s next album has the working title ‘Boys Called William & Girls Called Nancy’ (or the other way round!) he’s got a lot of songs to choose from, and we’ve had a few on here!

  7. SRD says:

    A pretty little song, almost perfectly presented.

  8. Ali M says:

    Re. Mary Lacy as mentioned by Jan and Cherry, there is a interesting book by Suzanne J Stark – “Female Tars – women aboard ship in the age of sail”. There is a chapter on ‘Women in Disguise in Naval Crews’ and a whole chapter devoted to Mary Lacy AKA William Chandler.

  9. Diana says:

    In the 18th century it was thought that women rarely went to sea but this was a Victorian myth as many women – often the wives of petty officers were on board, dealing with such chores as medical treatment and they frequently handled the ammunition.

    Whichever way one looks at it, whether in the 18th century or previously those women were downright brave (or foolhardy), life at sea in those days wasn’t a picnic.

    Well I thought the song was pleasant.

  10. Gozzer says:

    All very interesting stuff (although it is a pity that the link to an article on women within Nelson’s Navy seems to have been taken down). I wonder how all this information about women in the navy equates with the superstitions about women on board ships, as in Canadee-I-O for example. although there are many other songs that also express something of the bad luck that this was thought to bring. I do not doubt what is being said here, but what changed and when?

  11. Jane Ramsden says:

    I think a woman on ship was probably ‘bad luck’ when one sailor was getting something smuggled on board the others weren’t, but it was alright when the wimmin were either captain’s wives or working alongside, or of the ‘show a leg’ variety!

    Since we are still on sea-songs, I have found a web site for the International Shanty and Seasong Association (ISSA) which has a very simple, helpful page on types of shanties as follows:


  12. Diana says:

    Jane I thought your link was very interesting – wish they had given some examples.
    Just as well what was considered “bad luck” having women on board has changed. Us females pop up everywhere these days, in all capacities and “on board”. Though I have never heard of women on submarines. Can’t say I would fancy that. Went on a stationary one at Torquay once – didn’t enjoy the experience – can’t imagine what it would be like with all that water above when submerged.

    I notice that you have not got around to the “faces” yet. 😉

  13. Simon says:

    Gozzer, that’s one of the prat-falls of rescheduling all of the pages… I was aware that some of the links might be broken, but have limited time to check and fix them if they are, so mostly I haven’t bothered. Apart from anything else we seem to have assembled a resourceful crew, who are often able to add more than my modest research could submit originally. Reinhard’s excellent site is brilliant at cataloguing the songs and various recordings, but I always liked the history aspect of this too. There are so many things that I realised I knew next to, or less than nothing about. I’ve just turned this link up as a more than worthy replacement for the above and you’ll note there is penty of further reading suggested at the bottom, so a trip to the library may well be in order. I hope that helps.

  14. Jane Ramsden says:

    Thankee, Skyman. Nice to see you stiil keeping involved, despite other work pressures. 🙂

  15. Jan says:

    One thing that fascinates me about researching history, of songs and in general, is that so often there’s no definitive answer, leaving us all able to maintain our own pet theories.

    I second Jane’s comment above, Simon!

  16. Diana says:

    I see you made it Jane, everyone must have got yellow spots before their eyes on Saturday. Noticed what you said about Muzza’s “evil” one looking like a cat. I agree but didn’t see the resemblance until you mentioned it. Sacrilege indeed! Still trying and hoping for the best when I press the ubmit button 😳 an s missing there.

  17. Muzza(NW Surrey.UK) says:

    I’m blowed if I’d take my truelove on board!!!!!!
    Ref the lyrics from Mainly Norfolk…I see that the first three versions differ from the other two:-
    ‘Your little behind love would freeze in the wind love;’ the ladies soon sorted out that line! 😉

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

    😉 just to say I’m here…..
    a fella called Kilroy was also here a moment ago but he wrote something on the wall and sloped off.

  19. Diana says:

    Still a pleasant enough song.

  20. Diana says:

    As above, nothing changes.

  21. Linda says:

    Quite like this as Jon said a nice melody.
    Note Muzza it’s not only you…

  22. old Muzza(N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    This Nancy song is a bit ‘tuneless’….not got the swish of the other ‘Adieu sweet lovely Nancy’…aaaarrrrh

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