Keel Row, The

DESCRIPTION: "As I came through Sandgate, through Sandgate, through Sandgate, As I came through Sandgate... I heard a lassie sing, 'Weel may the keel row... That my laddi'es in.'" The singer wishes good luck to the boat and success to handsome Johnnie aboard it
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1810 (Cromek)
KEYWORDS: love ship sailor
FOUND IN: Britain(England(North),Scotland)
REFERENCES (9 citations):
Hogg2 29, "Merry May the Keel Row" (1 text, 1 tune)
Whitelaw-Song, p. 137, "Merry May the Keel Row" (1 text)
Stokoe/Reay, pp. 41-42, "The Keel Row" (1 short text plus a modern rewrite, 1 tune)
GreigDuncan4 771, "The Keel Rowe" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Robert Chambers (Edited by Norah and William Montgomerie), Traditional Scottish Nursery Rhymes (1990 selected from Popular Rhymes) #99, p.62, "Weel May the Keel Row"
Robert Chambers, The Scottish Songs (Edinburgh, 1829), Vol I, pp. 10-11, "Merry May the Keel Rowe"
R. H. Cromek, Remains of Nithsdale and Galloway Song, (London, 1810), pp. 154-155, "Merrie May the Keel Rowe"
[Cuthbert Sharp], _The Bishopric Garland, A Collection of Legends, Songs, Ballads, &c Belonging to the County of Durham_, 1834 (references are to the 1969 reprint), p. 56, "The Keel Row" (1 short text, 1 tune on p. 85)

Roud #3059
Bodleian, Harding B 25(878), Harding B 11(1978), "The Keel Row" ("As I came through the Cannon-gate"), T. Birt (London), 1828-1829; also Harding B 11(1355), Johnson Ballads 1093, Johnson Ballads fol. 12 [some illegible words], 2806 c.14(42), "The Keel Row"; Firth b.27(10), "Weel May the Keel Row"
LOCSheet, sm1882 03470, "Weel May the Keel Row," Carl Prufer (Boston), 1882; also sm1883 19633, "The Keel Row" (tune)

Song of the Keelman Lass
NOTES: The Bodleian note to most of the broadsides states "Subject: Newcastle (England)."
Hogg2: "It is a well known song and air. The verses given here are copied from Cromek's Remains." The first line is "As I came down the Cano'gate" which agrees substantially with the Bodleian broadsides (though the broadsides vary somewhat from both Hogg2 and the description above in the rest of their lines).
The LOCSheet references refer to Sandgate rather than Cannon-gate.
Like the LOCSheet text, GreigDuncan4 refers to Sandgate rather than Cannon-gate. GreigDuncan4, quoting Bell Robertson, Greig's informant, says "'Keels' are boats; 'Keelmen' lads who work them on the river; 'Sandgate' a road by Tyneside." The first line of broadside Bodleian Harding B 25(1019), "The Keelman's Complaint" ("Come, all ye brave fellows that belong the coal trade"), J. Marshall (Newcastle), 1810-1831, by Jeremiah Knox, explains a bit more.
Chambers: "This seems, from the allusions, to have been the ditty of some one of the Jacobite ladies of Canongate of Edinburgh, regarding either Prince Charles Stuart himself, or one of his adherants."
"Cromek died [1812] shortly after the issue [1810] of Remains of Nithsdale and Galloway Song, which was mostly written by Cunningham, though palmed upon Cromek as recovered antiques." (source: J. Ross, The Book of Scottish Poems: Ancient and Modern, (Edinburgh, Edinburgh Publishing Co, 1878), "Allan Cunningham 1784-1842," p. 738; other sources agree). Hogg's comments make it seem as though his specific text -- and Chambers's -- being from Cromek may be suspect but the song itself is traditional. - BS
Last updated in version 3.2
File: StoR041

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.