Blog

Sea Shanties on the High Seas

On Sunday 23 February 1936 Harry Andrewartha wrote in his diary “The weather today is fine and we have the gramophone out on the deck and we are all having a fine old time.” There were few records and the same tunes played on repeat. Harry sailed with his accordion and visited the starboard forecastle, where most of the Swedish speaking crew were accommodated, for a singsong.

Walter King, Royden Jenkins and John Cawley enjoying some music on the Pamir.

His shipmate Howard Peacock fondly remembered sailing through the night hearing “the gay accordion music … accompanied by a lone violin and lusty singing voices in a variety of languages.” According to Howard, “One young Aland Islander was surprised to know that we also knew ‘Old faithful’. He thought it was a Swedish song ‘Gamla Svartan’ (Old Black).”

Howard Peacock

‘Lili Marlene’, a German song made famous during the Second World War, was a favourite among Passat’s crew sailing from Port Victoria, South Australia to Falmouth, United Kingdom in 1948-9. Each time he heard ‘Lili Marlene’ in the years that followed, South Australian Maurice Corigliano, was reminded of a summer’s night with the crew on Passat’s deck singing in their own language.

Singalongs were one of the most popular ways for windjammer crews to pass the time, socialise and raise their spirits.

Dr Adam Paterson

Related blog posts

Maintenance at sea

Posted on Wednesday 14 April 2021

Windjammers, like Moshulu, would spend several years abroad before returning to their homeport for an overhaul on slip. Crew maintained the ships when...

Read this post

The Pre-teen Crews of the Windjammers

Posted on Monday 29 March 2021

  At thirteen, many of us would have been looking for a bit of freedom from our parents, and perhaps a little adventure. Taking off on a bike for...

Read this post

The infamous ‘Crossing the Line’ ceremony

Posted on Friday 05 March 2021

Approaching the equator, windjammer crews could look forward to a short break in the endless cycle of work. Sailors who had never ‘crossed the line...

Read this post