Digital Tradition Mirror

Press Gang

Press Gang

As I walked out on London Street
A press gang there I chanced to meet
They asked me if I'd join the fleet
On board of a man-o-war, boys

Come brother shipmates tell to me
What kind of treatment they give you
That I may know before I go
On board of a man-o-war, boys

When I got there to my surprise
All they had told me was shocking lies
There was a row and a jolly old row
On board of a man-o-war, boys

The first thing they done they took me in hand
They lashed me with a ?tar of a strand?
They flogged me till I could not stand
On board of a man-o-war, boys

Now I was married and me wife's name was Grace
'Twas she that led me to shocking disgrace
It's oft I'd curse her ugly face
On board of a man-o-war, boys

When next I get may foot on shore
To see them London girls once more
I'll never go to sea no more
On board of a man-o-war, boys

recorded by Ewan MacColl on "Black And White" (1982)
"From medieval times, the English crown claimed the power to press
able-bodied subjects into the navy for the defense of the realm.
With the passage of time, the power was abused and the press gang,
invading the small towns and roaming the countryside, became a
truly feared 'tradition', as witnessed by the scores of press gang
songs. In 1853 the long service system was introduced and the need
for press gangs virtually disappeared."


Thanks to Mudcat for the Digital Tradition!

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