Get Up, Jack! John, Sit Down!
DESCRIPTION: A song of the eternal tasks of the sailor, repeated from generation to generation. The sailors all enjoy their rum, find girls in the towns, get drunk, spend their money, and have to return to sea, as their fathers did before him.
AUTHOR: Words: Edward Harrigan / Music: David Braham
EARLIEST DATE: 1885 (expanded version of the play "Old Lavender")
KEYWORDS: sailor work drink
FOUND IN: US(MA,NE) Britain(England(North))
REFERENCES (8 citations):
Finson-Edward-Harrigan-David-Braham, vol. II, #114, pp. 114-116, "Get Up, Jack -- John, Sit Down" (1 text, 1 tune)
Kidson-TraditionalTunes, pp. 106-108, "Outward Bound" (1 text, 1 tune)
Warner-TraditionalAmericanFolkSongsFromAnneAndFrankWarnerColl 71, "The Jolly Roving Tar" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-FolkSongsOfNorthAmerica 33, "Get Up, Jack" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax/Lomax-AmericanBalladsAndFolkSongs, pp. 493-494, "Get Up, Jack! John, Sit Down!" (1 text)
NorthCarolinaFolkloreJournal, Frank L. Warner [nephew of Frank M. Warner], "Songs My Uncle Taught Me" Vol. XI, No. 1 (Jul 1963), pp. 31-32, "The Jolly Rovin' Tar" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Captain John Robinson, "Songs of the Chantey Man," a series published July-August 1917 in the periodical _The Bellman_ (Minneapolis, MN, 1906-1919). "We're Homeward Bound" is in Part 4, 8/4/1917.
DT, GETUPJCK JACKJOHN
Stanley Baby, "Homeward Bound" (on GreatLakes1)
Lena Bourne Fish, "Jolly Rocing Tar" (on USWarnerColl01)
Mick Moloney, "Get Up Jack John Sit down" (on HarriganBrahamMaloney)
cf. "Outward and Homeward Bound"
NOTES [713 words]: Written by Edward Harrigan and his father-in-law David Braham for the play "Old Lavender," which is listed as premiering September 1, 1885. (Information supplied by Philip Harrigan Sheedy.) "Old Lavender" actually premiered September 3, 1877 (Moody, p. 260), but Harrigan expanded it for the 1885 show, and this song was added. The song has since entered oral tradition, as known versions exhibit significant variations. - DGE, RBW
The song has cross-fertilized with "Outward and Homeward Bound"; it may be that that was the inspiration for this song -- although Edward Harrigan's father was a sailor (born of Irish parents in Carbonear, Newfoundland; Moody, p. 7), and Harrigan himself had been a ship's caulker (Moody, pp. 15-19), so Harrigan had plenty of background on a sailor's life. Nonetheless the handful of versions in oral tradition, although typically shorted than the Harrigan/Braham original, clearly retain large parts of the original. It's a rather odd piece in the Harrigan/Braham repertoire; Ned Harrigan , despite his nautical background, rarely wrote about the sea in his plays.
The song was from the play "Old Lavender," one that Harrigan worked on for many years (the first version his company performed was one of the few Harrigan shows that didn't do well, but he eventually got it right): "Harrigan toyed with Old Lavender most of his life. In 1885 he added more songs: "Poverty's Tears Ebb and Flow"; "Please to Put That Down"; a tribute to liquor, "When sorrow sits down on your brow, / and sadness peeps out of your eye, / don't stop to think but take a drink"; and one of the swingiest Braham-Harrigan tunes, "Get Up, Jack, John, Sit Down" (Moody, p. 81).
Apparently the original version of the drama, "Old Lavender Water, or, Around the Docks" did not feature any music (Franceschina, p. 107), because it came out before Harrigan's association with composer David Braham was firm; the addition of the music no doubt helps to explain the success of the revived version.
Old Lavender was a character Harrigan played himself (there is a photo of Harrigan in the role in the photo insert following p. 54 of Moody); according to Moody, pp. 78-79, "The seedy and lovable reprobate, Old Lavender, copied after an eccentric who had achieved celebrity on Corlear's Hook, was one of Harrigan's finest portraits. His counterpart might be found among the soggy inhabitants of any waterfront saloon, but few devout drunks could match Lavender's astonishing resistance to inebriation and to the deprivations of poverty. His elegant circumlocutions emerged in greater profusion with each dash of lubrication, and his natural dignity was unimpaired by his damaged top hat, his ragged frock coat, and his fingerless gloves. Harrigan had spotted the costume on an old man on lower Broadway."
In the play, Lavender is disowned by his brother Philip for drunkenness. Philip's wife runs off with a fellow named Paul Cassin -- who proceeds to dump her, literally: he throws her in a river. She is saved by Rat, a friend of Lavender (Franceschina, p. 174), "Lavender's Sancho Panza," played by Tony Hart (Moody, p. 79). Lavender himself is afraid of water after a flood in a gold mine he discovered, hence his drinking (Moody, p. 80). But it all ends in reconciliations.
Harrigan said of him, "I think Old Lavender fits more of my own individuality in stage characterization than any other part I ever played. I never could see his rags. He was the sort of fellow who could be welcomed anywhere, and was man enough to set off a little from the rest of the crowd. With his conversational powers he could hold his audience. He drank not for drink's self [sic.], but for sociability -- and I've seen many Lavenders" (Moody, p. 81). In the last two years of Harrigan's life, when he was ill and no longer able to perform, his family and old colleagues such as his leading lady Annie Yeamans would visit him and perform parts of his plays. What he requested most often was something from "Old Lavender" (Kahn, p. 300).
This song is sung by Lavender himself; as presented, it "is a jaunty sea chantey with a busy hornpipe accompaniment and a vigorous 'manly' chorus" (Franceschina, p. 174).
For background on Harrigan and Braham, see the notes to "The Babies on Our Block." - RBW
Last updated in version 6.1
- Franceschina: John Franceschina, David Braham: The American Offenbach, Routledge, 2003
- Kahn: E. J. Kahn, Jr., The Merry Partners: The Age and Stage of Harrigan and Hart, Random House, 1955
- Moody: Richard Moody, Ned Harrigan: From Corlear's Hook to Herald Square, Nelson Hall, 1980
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