Saturday, 8 November 2014


Just a quick post to mention that we had a slot in the Mowlem theatre on Friday during a 'Children in Need' variety night.

A couple of hundred local punters listened to us rattle off just 3 songs (we only had a few minutes).  We enjoyed the heat, the invisible crowd and the butterfly.

I'm glad I spotted that my phone had changed 'Doing Children in Need' to 'Doing Children in Bed' though.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Quiet Times

The summer is rolling away and the night's are drawing in.  It's time to switch back to the Secret Shanty Shed and dark-night practicing.

There's a number of things on the 'To Do' list before the spring:

  • New songs
  • Get some recording done
  • Do more amplified singing
  • Go to church
But for the next few weeks we'll just try to get back into the routine of meeting up weekly and blowing the man down.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Swanage Folk Festival

"We've only got Stonehenge left."
"I'll have a pint then, and glass of white wine please."
"We've got no white wine left."
"Don't suppose you have any rose?"
"Are you having a laugh?  We've never had any of that here!"

You've got to love the progressive attitude.  But picture the scene not 5 minutes later.  A third filled marquee and a mediocre band playing to a 'polite' seated audience that made me feel young again.  Along comes a woman with a badge on.
"Can you move out of the aisle please."
"I'm sorry?"
"You can't stand there.  Health and Safety"

We left.

Turns out to be a good thing, 'cos john and I drifted into the Red Lion where we found a Pete.  Julian joined after a quick shanty alert was issued on all frequencies and we rattled off a few of our favourites to a packed pub that were quite happy to rattle the windows at one o'clock in the morning.


We popped back in on Sunday lunchtime too (with the Kelpettes), but it was predictably a much more muted affair that suited our hangovers and we didn't stay all that long.  But the matre'd did introduce us without prompting and I saw somebody nearly clap before we'd even started...

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Swanage Folk Festival

What will be the highlights of Swanage Folk Festival, I wonder?

If it follows the form of years past, the open Irish music session in The White Swan will be great.  As will the open singing in the Red Lion at the same time.

Ahh the memories - last year not only did we sing alongside our greatest shanty influence 'Kimber's Men', but we also got fined by some guy who thought he was in charge of the session. 

There's a couple of terrific acts at Sandpit Field on Saturday night (which is why we're not singing on Saturday night):

{cue stolen words}
Joe Broughton, Paloma Trig├ís, Tom Chapman and Dan Walsh are The Urban Folk Quartet. Four highly accomplished musicians, a dozen instruments and four voices coming together to craft a knockout show of globally–influenced, electrifying acoustic music that has been taking the international folk scene by storm.
Twice-nominated at BBC Folk Awards, contemporary folk/acoustic duo Gilmore & Roberts combine award-winning songwriting with astounding lap-tapping guitar, fiery fiddle and their trademark harmonies, creating a powerful wall of sound.

But Kelp! (or at least some of us) will be singing in the Red Lion on Sunday lunchtime at whatever is left of the open singing community.  It'll be fun.

The Alabama

One of my own favourites, 'The Alabama' tells the story of a boat built in secrecy in 1862 to fight for the Confederates during the American Civil War.

When blocked from entering Cherbourg Port after 2 years at sea, the Captain of the Alabama sent the following telegraph:

"my intention is to fight the Kearsarge as soon as I can make the necessary arrangements. I hope these will not detain me more than until to-morrow or the morrow morning at farthest. I beg she will not depart until I am ready to go out. I have the honor to be Your obedient servant, R. Semmes, Captain."

When the Alabama’s keel was laid
Roll, Alabama, Roll
Twas laid in the yard of Jonathan Laird
O Roll, Alabama, Roll

Twas laid in the yard of Jonathan Laird
Roll, Alabama, Roll
Twas laid in the town of Birkenhead
O Roll, Alabama, Roll

Down the Mersey way she rolled then
Roll, Alabama, Roll
Liverpool fitted her with guns and men
O Roll, Alabama, Roll

From the Western Isle she sailed forth
Roll, Alabama, Roll
To destroy the commerce of the North
O Roll, Alabama, Roll

To Cherbourg port she sailed one day
Roll, Alabama, Roll
To take her count of prize money
O Roll, Alabama, Roll

Many a sailor lad he met his doom
Roll, Alabama, Roll
When the Kearsarge it hove in view
O Roll, Alabama, Roll

Til a shot from the forward canon that day
Roll, Alabama, Roll
Blew the Alabama’s stern away
O Roll, Alabama, Roll

Off the three mile limit in sixty-four
Roll, Alabama, Roll
The Alabama sank to the ocean floor
O Roll, Alabama, Roll

Monday, 18 August 2014

Swanage Lifeboat Week - the Main Event

Almost a Repeat

We thought we should have a final practice before the big event, so arrangements were made to meet up at the Stone Quay - but tonight without John who was delayed on an international adventure of some description.

Pete & I were there.

Then Robin turned up with a box or two.

No sign of the others,  so I called for a mandolin to keep the crowd awake,

Fortunately, Tim, Julian and Rick also turned up (and a guest appearance from Mike) - so off we went.  We adapted the set list and nobody outwardly complained, so we quit while we were ahead and de-camped to the Red to quietly finish off the night.

Or so we thought...

Oh - and both Julian and Mike were there.  Unusual.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Mid-week Multi-venue Welsh Shanty-fest

Minus Shanty-Pete and Julian (you were missed) we thought we'd have a quick practice on the Quay.  It was bound to be quiet.  It was.  For a while.  

To be honest, we did gather a modest crowd - certainly more than I expected on a chilly evening as the sun went down.  Applause was heard at one point - always a bonus.

Pleased with our work, we retired to the Red Lion - only to find half the rowing club and a couple of enthusiastic Welsh women quite keen to hear more music and singing.  So we obliged - with a guest appearance by Robin and his quiver of boxes to keep up morale.

All in all a great night and more than £50 added to the bucket.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Youngest Fan

This little lady is officially Kelp!'s youngest fan.  Although in this picture she was concentrating hard on the nuances of our subtle harmonising, she was often making it _very_ obvious she was having a great time.

Made it all worthwhile in a few short minutes - thank you!

p.s. - this was at one of the 'Stone Quay Sessions' we're holding through the summer.  The weather was fine and the wind blew free for this one - £130 in the shanty-bucket.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Whip Jamboree

And now my lads be of good cheer
For the Irish Coast will soon draw near
And we’ll set a course for the old Cape Clear

Oh Jenny get your oatcakes done
Whip Jamboree Whip Jamboree
Oh you pig-tailed sailor hanging down behind
Whip Jamboree Whip Jamboree
Oh Jenny get your oatcakes done

And now Cape Clear it is in sight (51.4392,-9.5045)
We’ll be off Holyhead by tomorrow night
And we’ll steer a course for the old Rock Light 

Oh Jenny get your oatcakes done 

And now my lads we’re off Holyhead (53.3108,-4.6282)
No more salt beef or weevily bread
One man in the chains for to heave the lead

Oh Jenny get your oatcakes done

And now my lads we’re off Fort Perch Rock (53.4427,-3.0405)
All hammocks lashed and sea-chests locked
And we’ll haul her into the Waterloo Dock (53.4131,-3.0011)

Oh Jenny get your oatcakes done 

And now my lads we’re all in dock
We’ll be off to Dan Lowry’s on the spot
And there we’ll sup a big pint pot Jenny get your oatcakes done

Oh Jenny get your oatcakes done
Whip Jamboree Whip Jamboree
Oh you pig-tailed sailor hanging down behind
Whip Jamboree Whip Jamboree
Oh Jenny get your oatcakes done

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Busy Times...

...and more firsts

Managed our first 'Stone Quay Session' and actually got requests.  I'm not sure, but I think that may be another first for Kelp!  We really should put a version of 'Drunken Sailor' into our rep.

Two on the trot soon - Thursday in the Red with the Ukelele girls again.  I hope we can hold our own.  And then a Friday 'Weather Permitting' Stone Quay Session.  

Busy Times.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Must Try Harder

Last night we popped into the Red Lion to support our local Ladies Sea Rowing squad.  In their spare time, they seem to have developed the ability to play a variety of small guitars and sing very nicely.  

We were completely out-performed!


Thursday, 1 May 2014

Sixty Seven

Randy Dandy-O
Roll Alabama
Blood Red Roses
Sweet Ladies of Plymouth

Our running order for Neil Hardy's do in Harmon Cross Village Hall last night.  We were worryingly in between the audience and the exit - but we got away with it.  Pete said there were 67, he may have meant numbers, he may have meant average age...

We warmed up in the Square and Compass, then returned afterwards to find Mike, Dave and some other musicians strumming in the taproom.  So we joined them.  Eventually, we were asked to leave.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Leave Her Johnny

Rick 'Kanakanaka' usually leads this song for us - often to the wrong tune.

I thought I heard the Old Man say
Leave her, Johnny, leave her
Oh it’s time to come and get your pay
And it’s time for us to leave her.

Leave her, Johnny, leave her.
Oh leave her, Johnny, leave her
Now the voyage is done,
And the winds don’t blow
And it’s time for us to leave her.

Now the winds blew hard and the seas rode high
Leave her…
Oh she shipped it green and none went by
And it’s…


It’s mahogany beef and weevils in your bread
Leave her…
Oh I wish old crackerhash Joe was dead


Now the Mate is a bucko and the old man is a Turk
Leave her…
And the Bosun is a bastard with a middle name of work


Oh she’s Paris bound and Parish rigged
Leave her…
And the whold damned crew is fever strick’d


Now the rats have gone and we, the crew
Leave her…
And it’s time by Christ that we went too

[Chorus ]

The "her" being left is not a woman, but the ship. This shanty was traditionally sung when the ship was at port after it had docked in the final spell at the pumps
Leave Her, Johnny was used at the pumps, but it also served the purpose of the seamen airing their grievances (hence it being done at the end of a voyage).

There were several versions directed at the food on board ship and the owners which could be interpreted as a bit ‘direct’!

Friday, 25 April 2014

International Audience

At last night's session, we had a visit from a chap called Doug.  He's American.  Despite that, he seemed like a very nice chap and politely didn't leave early.

From what I can gather, he's some sort of spy sent over from Maine by the sailmaker who has made the sails for Pete's Boat.  Doug is a boatbuilder of some repute and was clearly under orders to scupper Pete's project if it isn't up to scratch.

I hope it's still around in the morning! 

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Barrett's Privateers

A recent addition to our songlist, we performed a version of this great song at the Square and Compass last week

Barrett's PrivateersStan Rogers

Oh, the year was 1778,
     How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now!
A letter of marque came from the King
To the scummiest vessel I’ve ever seen.

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.

Oh, Elcid Barrett cried the town
     How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now!
For twenty brave souls, all fisherman, who
Would make for him the Antelope’s crew.

The Antelope sloop was a sickening sight
     How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now!
She'd a list to port and her sails in rags
And the cook in the scuppers with the staggers and jags.

On the king’s birthday we set to sea
      How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now!
It was ninety-one days to Montego Bay
Pumping like madmen all the way.

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

Oh, the Yankee lay low down with gold
     How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now!
She was broad and fat and loose in stays
But to catch her took the Antelope two whole days.

Then at length we stood two cables away
     How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now!
Our cracked four-pounders made an awful din
But with one fat ball the Yank stove us in.

Oh, the Antelope shook and pitched on her side
     ( "How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now!")
Oh Barrett was smashed like a bowl of eggs
And the maintruck carried off both me legs.

So here I sit in my twenty-third year
     ( "How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now!")
It’s been six years since I sailed away
And I just made Halifax yesterday.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The Centipede's Dilemma

Shanty Pete was in fine form on Monday evening, but seemed keen on starting songs and allowing lesser shantymen to finish them off.

I took Pete's behaviour as an example of the Master coaching the Apprentice. After all, as the psychologist Geoffrey Humphrey observed "No man skilled at a trade needs to put his constant attention on the routine work. If he does, the job is apt to be spoiled"

I mentioned this to Pete and got, to my surprise, the following reply:

Hi Steve,
Apologies for only singing the first two verses last night and thank you for noticing!I must be suffering from ‘short verse syndrome’ which I believe is a precursor to other geriatric anomalies (which I also suffer from),  or it might just be an overdose of ‘the bloody fishing boat knackering condition’ which I have obviously caught in Ridge over the past few weeks. I have made an appointment with Dr Baker who I am sure will prescribe some suitable pills or send me for a brain scan and this means I will be ok for next Monday @ the shed!Salutations
Shanty Pete

Now I'm no Doctor, but perhaps Pete is suffering from The Centipede's Dilemma?

A centipede was happy – quite!
Until a toad in fun
Said, "Pray, which leg moves after which?"
This raised her doubts to such a pitch,
She fell exhausted in the ditch
Not knowing how to run.


A spider met a centipede while hurrying down the street,
"How do you move at such a speed, with all so many feet?"
"I do not have to contemplate to keep them all in line,
But if I start to concentrate they're tangled all the time!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Square and Compass

How do you describe the Square and Compass?

For one thing, it is a venue many performers are proud to put on their bio   -  and Kelp! are no exception.

Robin kindly rounded up a few musicians to form a 'Shanty Oriented open music night' and a great evening was had by all (as you can clearly see in the pic).

Local colour was provided by the Kelpettes! - the support much appreciated and a little soprano ghosting over the top of John 'Knopfler' Gilmour set the tone nicely.

It was great to play alongside Mike, Dave and Paul - there's talk of a monthly reunion.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Tonight, for one night only...

Robin has organised (at least, I hope he has) an open music night at the world famous Square & Compass in Worth Matravers.

Kelp! will be there.  I hope they let us stay.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

The End

After hours in the studio, thousands of takes and a massive amount of auto-correction...

Technology and the Shanty

Perhaps we saw a step-change in Kelp! tonight?

As well as the traditional sawdust, smokey log burner and a vast array of tools all intent on harming saw the addition of...a microphone.

Looks of horror quickly formed on normally placid, time- and weather-worn faces as, seemingly as one, we realised there was no longer anywhere to hide.

Some were thinking 'I'm gonna have to learn some more words'. Some 'I really should learn the tune'. 

Snippets will be posted here as soon as I've worked out how...

Juxtaposed Tech

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

And How Do You Know She's a Yankee Clipper?

By the Stars and Bars that fly behind her
(From 'Blow, Me Bully Boys, Blow', not a song we've ventured into.  Yet.)

A number of remarkable things in this picture:

  • Julian again
  • A chap called Mike who I sincerely hope we'll see again
  • Some ear defenders
  • Pete looking like he's trying to hang himself
  • And a Glimpse of the Summerwine Boat (BB15)
There's another boat in the shed too at the moment, more of her and her builder in a later post

Monday, 27 January 2014

Fire Marengo

This song originated as a cotton screwing work song. Cotton screwing was easily one of the most labor intensive duties on board (it involved cramming bales of cotton into a ship’s hold) a ship and was typically performed by shore bound sailors, many of whom worked in South American harbors trying to save up money. Stan Hugill ( chronicled “Fire Marengo” in his book, “Shanties From the Seven Seas,” but he only had about four verses and there was no melody. Royston Wood (from The Young Tradition) found it in Hugill’s book and added a melody and a few more verses, and the rest is history

I stole these words from this blog, which sadly seems to have died

Stan Hugill's versionThe Young Tradition
Lift him up and carry him along
    Fire Maringo, fire away!
Put him down where he belong
    Fire Maringo, fire away!
Lift him up and carry him along
    Fire Maringo, fire away!
Put him down where he belong
    Fire Maringo, fire away!
Ease him down and let him lay,
Screw him in and there he'll stay.
Ease him down and let him lay,
Screw him in and there he'll stay.
Stow him in his hole below,
Say he must and then he'll go.
Stow him in his hole below,
Stay he must and then he'll go.
When I get back to Liverpool Town,
I'll pass a line to little Sally Brown.
I'll haul her high and I'll haul her low,
I'll bust her blocks and I'll make her go.
Oh, Sally, she's a pretty little craft,
Hot shot to the fore and a rounded aft.
Screw the cotton, screw him down.
Let's get the hell from the Hilo Town.
Bellowhead sing Fire MarengoJon Boden sings Fire Marengo
Oh, lift him up and carry him along
    Fire Marengo, fire away!
Set him down where he belongs
    Fire Marengo, fire away!
Oh, lift him up and carry him along
    Fire Marengo, fire away!
Set him down where he belongs
    Fire Marengo, fire away!
Stow him in his hull below,
It's stay he must but then he'll go.
Ease him in and let him lay,
Set him down and there he'll stay.
Screw that cotton, screw it down,
Let's get back home to Liverpool town.
Oh, screw that cotton, screw it down,
Let's get back home to Liverpool town.
When I get back to Liverpool Town,
I'll cast a line to little Sally Brown.
When I get back to Liverpool Town,
I'll cast a line to little Sally Brown.
I'll haul her high, I'll haul her low,
I'll bust her blocks and make her go.
I'll haul her high, I'll haul her low,
I'll bust her blocks and make her go.
Now Sally, she's a pretty little craft,
Hot shot to the fore and a rounded aft.
Oh Sally, she's a pretty little craft,
Hot shot to the fore and a rounded aft.
(repeat firsrt verse)

Wednesday, 22 January 2014


Learn the words, man!
Switching to Monday in the secret shanty shed meant that Julian ( could come along for a change.

Julian works in London, which is a town north east of Swanage. I have no idea what he does, but I feel sure he does it with enthusiasm, alacrity and plenty of style - which is, of course, how he sings.

What is a Shanty, anyway?

Sea Shanties (chanties): The word "chanty" (or shanty) is probably derived from the French word "chanter" - to sing. Alternatively it could be a derivation of the English work ‘chant’.
There are several different types of shanties: 
  • Capstan shanties: The capstan was used (among other things) to haul in the Anchor cable.  Capstan shanties had steady rhythms and usually told stories because of the length of time (which could be hours) it took to raise the anchor. Sailors would stamp on the deck at the start of each verse. This gave rise to the term, "stamp and go chanties."
  • Halyard shanties: Halyard shanties were sung to the raising and lowering of sails. Sails could weigh between 1,000 and 2,500 pounds. To set a sail some member of the crew would climb the rigging to loosen the canvas. On deck the crew would take hold of a line called the halyard (for haul + yard). The crew would rest during the verse and haul during the chorus. Depending on the weight of the sail, crews could pull one (for heavy jobs) to three times per chorus (for lighter jobs).
  • Short drag shanties: Very difficult tasks meant crews could pull less. Short drag shanties were used for such tasks - such as trimming the sails or raising the masthead
  • Windlass and pumping shanties: The windlass is used to raise the anchor as well as set and trim the sails, the barrel of the windlass using a basic ratchet & pawl mechanism to stop it running backwards as the loads increased. Wooden ships leaked, but not so fast that the crew could not pump the water out. There were several different types of pumps, which accounts for the variation in the timing of pumping shanties.
  • Ceremonial and fore bitter shanties: Ceremonial and forecastle (the crews quarters) songs were those sung by sailors on their time off (of which they didn't have a great deal). These usually told stories of famous battles, romance, or of their longing for home. Ceremonial shanties were for times of celebration, such as when the sailor paid off his debt to the ship or when they crossed the equator.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Little Pot Stove

The Secret Shanty Shed is a cool place to practice in the winter months


Unfortunately Pete hasn't managed to work out how to turn off the air conditioning unit, which is powerful enough to keep the shed a constant 10°c colder than outside.

Didn't take a photo

Forgot to take photo tonight, so took this instead.  Mainly to test out my on-the-fly blogging app, but also to illustrate how seriously we take an holistic approach to singing which naturally includes hydration and nutrition.  Perhaps we should write a Kelp! diet book.

Original Twiglets.  Really?

Wednesday, 8 January 2014


These little beauties are destined to become the main propulsion unit of Summerwine Boat's latest awesome matchstick project.
Carved by Pete out of a single block of bronze ore, they are a work of art in themselves and it's almost a shame to bury them inside an object of outstanding craftsmanship and beauty that threatens to relegate them to being merely 'a part' of something bigger.

In the meantime, we've discovered that they ring out at what sounds to me like 466Hz.  Handy for a singer.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

2013 - a Gig Review

Just for the record, here's a list of our official 2013 bookings:
  • July 17th - Kingston Courtyard
  • August 17th - Lifeboat Week
  • December 7th - Swanage Sea Rowing Club Boathouse Opening
  • December 14th - Swanage Sailing Club Festive Evening feat. Mike Etherington