Barrett’s Privateers

This is actually a modern forebitter (not actually in the form of a work song, so not a chantey) written by the late and very great Stan Rogers.  The characters in the story are fictional but you get a sense, albeit comically, of what a sailor experienced aboard of the many privateers often thrown together for a quick profit but commanded with much skill and a series of mishaps that leave you shaking your head long with the sailor recounting the tale.  The setting is the American Revolution and it is clear that it is a British (or English Canadian) venture, considering the “prey” is American shipping.

Paul was the first in our lot to present this song, but now it is part of the repertoire of Tim.

 

O the year was Seventeen Seventy-Eight
How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now
A letter of marque came from the king
To the scummiest vessel I’ve ever seen

 

Chorus:
God damn them all
I was told we’d cruise the seas for American gold
We’d fire no guns, shed no tears
Now I’m a broken man on a Halifax
pier,
The last of Barrett’s Privateers

 

O Elcid Barrett cried the town
How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now
For twenty brave men all fishermen who
Would make for him the Antelope’s crew

Chorus:

 

The Antelope sloop was a sickening site
How I wish…
She’d a list to the port and her sails in rags
And the cook in the scuppers with the staggers and jags

Chorus:

 

On the King’s birthday we put to sea
How I wish…
We were ninety-one days to
Montego Bay
Pumping like madmen all the way
 

Chorus:

 

On the ninety-sixth day we sailed again
How I wish…
When a bloody great Yankee hove in sight
With our cracked four-pounders we made to fight

Chorus:

 

Now the Yankee lay low down with gold
How I wish…
She was broad and fat and loose in stays
But to catch her took the Antelope two whole days

Chorus:

 

Then at length she stood two cables away
How I wish…
Our crack four-pounders made awful din
But with one fat ball the Yank stove us in

Chorus:

 

Well the Antelope shook and pitched on her side
How I wish…
Barrett was smashed like a bowl of eggs
And the main truck carried off both me legs

Chorus:

 

Now here I lay in my twenty-third year
How I wish…
It’s been six years since we sailed away
And I just made Halifax
yesterday

Chorus:

 

(Copyright Fogarty’s Cove Music, Inc. )

 

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