William Taylor [Laws N11]

DESCRIPTION: Willie is (about to be married when he is) impressed. His love dresses like a man and seeks him. She is revealed as a woman. The captain tells her that William is about to marry another. She shoots him. The captain gives her a command or marries her
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1817 (Journal from the Herald)
KEYWORDS: homicide betrayal pressgang disguise cross-dressing sailor
FOUND IN: US(Ap,MW,NE,Ro,SE,So) Canada(Mar,Newf,Ont) Britain(England,Scotland) Ireland
REFERENCES (32 citations):
Laws N11, "William Taylor" (Laws gives a broadside texts on pp. 93-94 of ABFBB)
Wiltshire-WSRO Ox 308, "William Taylor" (1 text)
OShaughnessy-Grainger 2, "Bold William Taylor" (1 text, 1 tune)
OShaughnessy-Yellowbelly1 7, "Bold William Taylor" (1 text, 1 tune)
Musick-Larkin 1, "William Tailer" (1 text)
Greig #101, p. 1, "Billy Taylor" (1 text)
GreigDuncan1 169, "Billy Taylor" (6 texts, 3 tunes)
Lyle-Crawfurd1 19, "Willie Taylor" (1 fragment)
Belden, pp. 182-183, "William Taylor" (1 text)
Randolph 67, "Willie Taylor" (1 text, 1 tune)
BrownII 106, "William Taylor" (1 text)
BrownSchinhanIV 106, "William Taylor" (1 excerpt, 1 tune)
Moore-Southwest 74, "The False Lover" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hubbard, #25, "Willie Taylor" (1 text, 1 tune)
SharpAp 61, "William Taylor" (3 texts, 3 tunes)
Sharp-100E 71, "William Taylor" (1 text, 1 tune)
Reeves-Sharp 113, "William Taylor" (2 texts)
Butterworth/Dawney, p. 45, "William Taylor" (1 text, 1 tune)
SHenry H213, p. 334, "Willie Taylor (a)"; H757, pp. 334-335, "Willie Taylor (b)" (2 texts, 2 tunes, both composite)
JHCox 120, "William Taylor" (1 text)
Flanders/Brown, pp. 152-154, "William Taylor" (1 text)
Ord, pp. 315-316, "Billy Taylor" (1 text)
Greenleaf/Mansfield 22, "Willie Taylor" (1 text, 1 tune)
Leach-Labrador 131, "Willy Taylor" (1 text, 1 tune)
Karpeles-Newfoundland 49, "William Taylor" (1 text, 1 tune)
Creighton-NovaScotia 32, "Billy Taylor" (1 text, 1 tune)
Mackenzie 46, "Willie Taylor" (2 texts)
Manny/Wilson 61, "Brisk Young Seaman (Willie Taylor)" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fowke-Ontario 60, "Willie Taylor" (1 text, 1 tune)
Huntington-Whalemen, pp. 94-95, "William Taylor" (1 text, with the ending lost, 1 tune)
DT 443, BLLYTYLR*
ADDITIONAL: C. H. Firth, _Publications of the Navy Records Society_ , 1907, p. 326, "The Female Lieutenant; or, Faithless Lover Rewarded"; p. 327, "Billy Taylor" (2 texts)

Roud #158
RECORDINGS:
Joseph Taylor, "Bold William Taylor" (on Voice06)
BROADSIDES:
Bodleian, Firth c.12(233), "Bold William Taylor ," H. Such (London), 1863-1885; also Firth c.12(231), Firth c.12(234), Harding B 11(391), Harding B 11(3010)[some words illegible], "Bold William Taylor"; Harding B 25(2069), "William Taylor"; Firth c.12(232)[some words illegible], "The Female Lieutenant" or "Faithless Lover Rewarded"
LOCSinging, as113210, "William Taylor," Leonard Deming (Boston), 19C

CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "Une Belle Recompense (A Beautiful Reward)" (plot)
ALTERNATE TITLES:
Bold William Taylor
NOTES: Belden's version of this song ends with the girl drowning herself in grief. Laws mentions this only in connection with the Belden text, but it appears that Randolph's version also ends this way (it says only that the girl drowned, but Randolph marks a missing verse).I initially though this an Ozark attempt to moralize the song. But it occurs also in Brown. Cox has a similar, slightly less heavy-handed attempt; the girl is arrested but her fate not listed. Perhaps it's a general American urge to punish the "crime." - RBW
She likewise drowns herself in all three of Sharp's texts. - PJS
The "Bold William Taylor" broadsides end in marriage; "William Taylor" and "The Female Lieutenant" end in command.
Reeves-Sharp is a composite of four texts: "this is a composite of all elements of Sharp's ms. versions, none of which is complete by itself." - BS
C. H. Firth treats his "Billy Taylor" as "A Burlesque Ballad" of his other text (in which the sailor is called "William Taylor"); he describes it as Sung by Mr. Emery, at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. Still, they are clearly the same song, and both end with the girl as "lieutenant of the Thunder Bomb". The mention of bomb ships (mortar vessels) strongly dates those versions, at least, to the eighteenth or early nineteenth century.
Fowke-Ontario, p. 195, comments "No other heroine [of songs of women following their lovers to sea] turns her pistol on her sweetheart when he proves unfaithful. However, she has an older sister in the girl who stabbed 'Young Hunting' to death for deserting her."
For notes on legitimate historical examples of women serving in the military in disguise, see the notes to "The Soldier Maid."
It is probably just coincidence, but in 1804, shortly before the earliest attested date of this ballad, a book by Robert Kirby described the exploits of a disguised female sailor. Her real name, supposedly, was Mary Anne Talbot, and she took the name John Taylor -- and she served for several years at sea, aboard both merchant and naval vessels, and was wounded before finally claiming discharge on the grounds of her sex. (see David Cordingly, Women Sailors and Sailors' Women, Random House, 2001 [I use the undated, but later, paperback edition], pp. 76-77). Cordingly says that Talbot's tale is fictional, but that would not have been known at the time. Could Talbot's alternate name have supplied the name of the character in this song? Probably not, but it's an interesting coincidence. - RBW
Musick-Larkin: After shooting William "Polly threw herself away All the crew they ran for to save her And alas it would not do. Willy got shot and Polly got drownded This put an end to thare strife" [sic]. - BS
Last updated in version 3.8
File: LN11

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2015 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.