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

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