Jon says,“Dave Webber introduced me to the song via a cassette from Winchester library many years ago. I put the verses together from a few versions, but mainly from Songs The Whalemen Sang. It has one of the mightiest choruses around.” I was going too call this a stirring shanty, but it’s more accurately described as a fo’c’s’le (forecastle) song as it was sung for pleasure rather than work. This Wiki link will give you the details and even mentions this song in the definition. A.L. Lloyd recorded a version on the Leviathan album (CD currently unavailable) and you can read about that at Mainly Norfolk here. I’ve also turned up a version by Jolly Jack, a Lancastrian trio led by the late Dave Weatherall, available on the Rolling Down To Old Maui CD on Fellside. Interestingly the notes in the booklet collated and amended by Paul Adams are very specific.
“Our title track comes from Songs The Whalemen Sung by New Englander Gale Huntington. Many young men working on the American whaling ships kept personal journals in which the recorded the voyage, made sketches, notes and copied their favourite songs. The words of this song were taken from such a journal made aboard the Atkins Adams in 1858. The noble tune [pretty much as Jon sings it] is from Chantying Aboard American Ships by F.P. Harlow. Maui is one of the Hawaiian Islands and was a meeting place for whalers… something to look forward to between trips. A ‘homeward bound’ feeling prevails after the arctic hunting season but it was likely that they were merely calling at Maui for ‘fitting out’ for the further half year in the southern oceans.”
I’m grateful to Paul and whoever uncovered that gem. I’ll add there’s some rather good Mudcatage here and you’ll note lyrical variations, more recordings and some thoughts on the tune(s).
You can buy the August digital album now from all good download stores: