Leaving of Liverpool

Liverpool seems to be the default Mecca in sea songs… The exemplary home port for English speaking sailors the world over.  This song makes mention of an American ship Davy Crockett – a clipper ship built in Mystic, CT in 1853, and also uses poetic license for the sake of mood and rhyme, such as alternating “you” and “thee”.

The Leaving of Liverpool is a beautiful sea song and is often referred to as a brain worm.  It expresses the life of a sailor and the regret of leaving loved ones behind but hope for the return.   The song had been  collected by William Main Doerflinger  (Songs of the Sailor and Lumberman) from Richard “Dick” Maitland, an old  sailor living his retirement at Sailor’s Snug Harbor, on Staten Island (and who died on 2 January 1942), who while bosun on the American ship General Knox around 1885, had learned it one night from a Liverpool man; “I was on deck on night… when I heard a Liverpool man singin’ it in the fo’c’sle… Yessir, that song hit the spot!

Jos. Morneault

Hear “Dick” Maitland sing Shenandoah from the National Archives Collection.


Fare thee well, to you, my own true love,
For I’m going far away.
I am bound for California,
And I hope that I’ll return some day.

So fare thee well, my own true love,
And when I return, united we will be;
It’s not the leaving of Liverpool that grieves me,
But, my darling, when I think of thee.

I have signed on a Yankee clipper ship,
“DAVY CROCKETT” is her name
and Burgess is the Captain of her,
and they say she is a floating hell.


I have sailed with Burgess once before,
And I think I know him well
If a man’s a sailor then he can get along,
but if not, then he’s sure in hell.


I am bound for California,
By the way of the stormy Cape Horn.
And I will write to you a letter, love,
When I am home-ward bound.


Fare thee well to Lower Frederick Street,
Anson Terrace, and old Park Lane.
For I know it will be a long, long time,
Before I see you again


Oh, the sun is shining on the harbour wall,
And I wish I could remain.
For I know it will be a long, long time,
Before I see you again.


Skip Henderson in 2013

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *