Cruel Ship's Carpenter, The (The Gosport Tragedy; Pretty Polly) [Laws P36A/B]

DESCRIPTION: The carpenter gets the girl pregnant. They meet, allegedly to plan their wedding. He announces he spent the night digging her grave, then murders her. He flees to sea; her ghost follows to demand justice. His crime is revealed, and the man dies
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1767 (Journal from the Vaughn)
KEYWORDS: homicide burial ghost pregnancy betrayal sailor
FOUND IN: Britain(England(South),Scotland) US(Ap,MA,SE) Canada(Mar,Newf)
REFERENCES (29 citations):
Laws P36A, "The Cruel Ship's Carpenter A (The Gosport Tragedy)/The Cruel Ship's Carpenter B (Pretty Polly)"
Wiltshire-WSRO Wt 318, "Johnny, the Ship's Carpenter" (1 text)
RoudBishop #117, "The Cruel Ship's Carpenter" (1 text, 1 tune)
GreigDuncan2 201, "The Gosport Tragedy" (1 fragment, 1 tune)
Carey-MarylandFolkloreLife, pp. 59-61, "The Gospels of Libby" (1 text, with the title being a clear corruption of "Gosport City")
BrownII 64, "The Gosport Tragedy" (3 texts plus 1 excerpt and mention of 1 more; Laws lists the "A" text as P36A, and the rest as P36B, but "D" and probably "C" are "Pretty Polly (II)")
BrownSchinhanIV 64, "The Gosport Tragedy" (3 excerpts, 3 tunes; the "C" version is probably "Pretty Polly" and the others Laws P36B)
Morris, #183, "The Cruel Ship's Carpenter" (1 text)
JHCoxIIA, #17A-C, pp. 73-78, "Pretty Polly," "Come, Polly, Pretty Polly" (2 texts plus an excerpt, 2 tunes; the "A" text is the full "Cruel Ship's Carpenter" version; "B" is the short "Pretty Polly (II)"; the "C" fragment is too short to tell but has lyrics more typical of the latter)
Creighton/Senior, pp. 114-120, "The Ship's Carpenter" (4 texts, 2 tunes)
Fowke/MacMillan 70, "The Ship's Carpenter" (1 text, 1 tune)
Peacock, pp. 404-406, "The Ship's Carpenter" (1 text, 1 tune)
Karpeles-Newfoundland 27, "The Cruel Ship's Carpenter" (1 text, 1 tune)
Mackenzie 29, "The Gaspard Tragedy" (1 text, 1 tune)
Leach, pp. 698-700, "The Gosport Tragedy" (2 texts, but the second goes with "Pretty Polly (II)")
Leach-Heritage, pp. 147-148, "Pretty Polly" (1 text, 1 tune) on p. 203
Cambiaire, pp. 74-75, "The Cruel Ship's Carpenter (Pretty Polly)" (1 text, with the moralizing ending in which the ship sinks but no ghost)
Scarborough-SongCatcher, pp. 128-134, collectively titled "The Cruel Ship's Carpenter" but with individual titles "Pretty Polly," "Dying Polly," "Pretty Polly," "Pretty Polly," "Pretty Polly," "Oh, Polly!" (6 texts; 5 tunes on pp. 395-398; of these only the "C" text has a ghost; in "D" and "E" there is no ghost but Willie's ship sinks; the others by our criteria are versions of "Pretty Polly (II)")
SharpAp 49, "The Cruel Ship's Carpenter" (21 texts, 21 tunes -- but many of them, being fragmentary, could as easily be classified under "Pretty Polly (II)")
Sharp/Karpeles-80E 36, "The Cruel Ship's Carpenter" (1 text, 1 tune)
Huntington-Whalemen, pp. 129-131, "The Ship Carpenter" (1 text, long but broken off just before the murder, 1 tune)
Leach-Labrador 20, "Pretty Polly" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Manny/Wilson 92, "The Ship's Carpenter" (1 text, 1 tune)
Ashton-Sailor, #86 insert, "The Gosport Tragedy or The Perjured Ship-Carpenter" (1 text)
BBI, ZN1429, "In Gosport of late there a damsel did dwell"
DT 311, SHIPCARP* SGIOCRP2*
ADDITIONAL: John Ashton, _A Century of Ballads_, Elliot Stock, London, 1887; reprinted 1968 by Singing Tree Press, pp. 101-105, "The Gosport Tragedy, or The Perjured Ship Carpenter" (1 text)
Leslie Shepard, _The Broadside Ballad_, Legacy Books, 1962, 1978, p. 149, "The Cruel Ship's Carpenter" (reproduction of a broadside page with "The Cruel Ship's Carpenter" and "Death of Lord Nelson")
Frank Harte _Songs of Dublin_, second edition, Ossian, 1993, p. 24, "Miss Brown" (1 text, 1 tune, short enough that it might be any of several murder ballads, but some of the material seems characteristic of this song)

Roud #15
RECORDINGS:
Harry Cox, "In Worcester City" (on Voice17)
Sam Larner, "The Ghost Ship" (on SLarner02)
Joshua Osborne, "The Ship's Carpenter" (on PeacockCDROM) [one verse only]
Mike Waterson, "The Cruel Ship's Carpenter" (on ESFB2)

BROADSIDES:
Bodleian, Harding B 28(267), "Love and Murder" ("In Worcester town, and in Worcestershire"), W. Armstrong (Liverpool), 1820-1824; also Harding B 25(1156), Harding B 28(285), Harding B 28(24), "Love and Murder"; Harding B 11(3053A), "Polly Love" or "The Cruel Ship-Carpenter"; Johnson Ballads 458, Harding B 11(3057), Harding B 11(3058), Harding B 11(3056), Harding B 11(49), Firth c.13(205), Harding B 25(1520), "Polly's Love" or "The Cruel Ship Carpenter[!]"; Harding B 15(74b), Firth c.13(290), "The Cruel Ship Carpenter"; Harding B 11(824), "The Cruel Ship-Carpenter"; Harding B 3(33), "The Gosport Tragedy" or "The Perjured Ship-Carpenter"; Harding B 3(34), "The Gosport Tragedy" or "The Perjured Ship Carpenter"
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. esp. "Pretty Polly (II)" (a much-reduced form of this ballad which as now sung has a different plot)
cf. "The Sailor and the Ghost [Laws P34A/B]"
cf. "Pat O'Brien" [Laws P39]
cf. "Captain Glen/The New York Trader (The Guilty Sea Captain A/B)" [Laws K22] and references there
cf. "Willie Was As Fine a Sailor"
cf. "The Fog-bound Vessel" (parody of this)
ALTERNATE TITLES:
Willie and Nancy of Yarmouth
NOTES: Although there is no clear dividing line between the full ballad "The Gosport Tragedy" and the drastically shortened form "Pretty Polly," the latter has now clearly taken on a life of its own. I tend to distinguish them by the presence or absence of the ghost. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.1
File: LP36

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