George's Quay

DESCRIPTION: Johnny Doyle sails for China leaving Mary pregnant. Years later Mary's son grows up. She dresses as a sailor and ships aboard a pirate to find Johnny. Their ships meet. Johnny is a captain. They return home, marry and she becomes pregnant again.
AUTHOR: Jimmy Montgomery (source: OLochlainn-More)
EARLIEST DATE: 1965 (OLochlainn-More)
KEYWORDS: courting marriage reunion separation cross-dressing pregnancy sea ship baby sailor pirate
FOUND IN: Ireland
REFERENCES (2 citations):
OLochlainn-More 89, "George's Quay" or "The Forgetful Sailor" (1 text, 1 tune)
ADDITIONAL: Frank Harte _Songs of Dublin_, second edition, Ossian, 1993, pp. 34-35, "George's Quay (or The Forgetful Sailor)" (1 text, 1 tune)

NOTES: Anyone else think this is an Irish rewrite of The Odyssey?
Incidentally, the song says that "In China... they're very wise and drown at birth their surplus daughters." This is historically true (though it's even more common in India), and there is evidence that elimination of baby girls continues in China due to the "one child" policy (though they now use abortion rather than infanticide). Ridley, p. 122, notes "The Chinese, deprived of the chance to have more than one child, killed more than 250,000 girls after birth between 1979 and 1984. In some age groups in China, there are 122 boys for every 100 girls. In one recent study of clinics in Bombay, of 8,000 abortions, 7,997 were of female fetuses."
Forbes, p. 184, gives even starker numbers: "[I]n societies with a tradition of female infanticide, the surplus of males over females rises sharply. Guangdong and Hainan provinces in rural China, for example, showed ratios of 130 and 135 males to 100 females in the 2000 census, and similar numbers of males to females were reported from rural Indian states in the mid-1990s."
Eberhard, p. 61, shows how deeply ingrained this is. "Implicitly if not explicitly, for the Chinese, 'children' means... 'sons.' Before 1949 only a male heir could inherit the parental estate...."
Jolly, p. 121, has an even more extreme version of this statistic: In Bombay, 7999 out of 8000 aborted fetuses were female, and the parents of the single exception allegedly sued because they had been falsely informed that the fetus was female. Her note claims that this data came from UNICEF. This strikes me as too extreme to be possible. But the very fact that no one seems to question the statistic indicates that the bias against girls is extreme.
However, this is by no means wise if the goal is to leave descendants. The policy obviously produces a surplus of males -- who end up leaving with no descendants because they cannot marry. According to Jones, p. 37, the effects of this were felt as early as the nineteenth century, in the province of Huai-Pei. Many girls were killed during a famine. "As their brothers grew up, they found nobody to marry. Great gangs of disaffected youths grew into a horde of a hundred thousand rebels -- the Nian. They almost overthrew the dynasty before they were crushed." Jones observes that, in modern times, this has resulted in an epidemic of kidnapping women to serve as wives for unmarried sons, or simply to serve as prostitutes. Jones on pp. 33-36 adds myriad examples of female-killing in India.
A recent book, which I have not seen, is Mara Hvistendahl, Unnatural Selection. This notes that modern sex selection techniques have caused major gender imbalances in large parts of Asia. And she also observes that crime rates increase in direct correlation to the number of excess males.
If anyone is tempted to say that the West has not made progress in the direction of women's equality, consider this: According to Jones, p. 38, families in developed countries tend to stop having children as soon as they have at least one girl and at least one boy. And, on p. 39, in discussing a machine which can dramatically bias the sex ratios of children born by artificial insemination, he observes that three-fourths of the clients of the company doing the work ask for a daughter, not a son. - RBW
Bibliography Last updated in version 2.6
File: OLcM089

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 2017 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.