DESCRIPTION: Used by sailors as they stowed cotton or lumber. "Were you ever in Quebec? Bonnie Laddie, Hieland Laddie, Stowing timber on the deck, Bonnie Hieland Laddie"
EARLIEST DATE: 1846 (Erskine-TwentyYearsBeforeTheMast)
KEYWORDS: nonballad shanty work
FOUND IN: US(MA,NE,SE) Britain(Scotland) Canada(Que) West Indies(St Vincent)
REFERENCES (19 citations):
Doerflinger-SongsOfTheSailorAndLumberman, pp. 50-51, "Highland Laddie" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Walton/Grimm-Windjammers-SongsOfTheGreatLakesSailors, p. 102, "Bonbie Highland Laddie (1 text, with localization to the Great Lakes, including mentions of Marquette and Grand Marais)
Colcord-SongsOfAmericanSailormen, p. 95, "Highland Laddie" (1 text, 1 tune)
Harlow-ChantyingAboardAmericanShips, pp. 72-73, "Riding on a Donkey" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hugill-ShantiesFromTheSevenSeas, pp. 143-150, "Heiland Laddie," "Donkey Riding," "My Bonnie Highland Lassie-O" (5 texts, 5 tunes plus fragments) [AbEd, pp. 115-121]
Sharp-EnglishFolkChanteys, XXVI, p. 30, "Heave Away, My Johnny" (1 text, 1 tune)
Gatherer-SongsAndBalladsOfDundee 27, "Bonnie Laddie, Hieland Laddie" (1 text, 1 tune, derived from a folk revival singer)
Kinsey-SongsOfTheSea, pp. 55-56, "Donkey Riding" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fowke/Johnston-FolkSongsOfCanada, pp. 38-39, "Donkey Riding" (1 text, 1 tune)
Erskine-TwentyYearsBeforeTheMast, p. 297, "(Were you ever in Boston town)" (1 text)
Eckstorm/Smyth-MinstrelsyOfMaine, p. 242, "Isle o' Holt" (1 text); pp. 244-245, "Higland Laddie" (1 text)
Pankake/Pankake-PrairieHomeCompanionFolkSongBook, p. 64, "Donkey Riding" (1 text)
Silber/Silber-FolksingersWordbook, p. 96, "Hieland Laddie" (1 text)
Averill-CampSongsFolkSongs, p. 280-281, 498, 510, 512, "Donkey Riding" (notes, with an unusual stanza on p. 281)
GirlScouts-SingTogether, p. 81, "Donkey Riding" (1 text, 1 tune)
48MuchLovedFolkSongs, p. 22, "Donkey Riding" (1 text, 1 tune)
DT, DONKEYRD* HIELND* HIELND3* HIELNDLD*
ADDITIONAL: Charles Nordhoff, _The Merchant Vessel: A Sailor Boy's Voyages To See the World _(Cincinnati: Moore, Wilstach, Keys & Co., 1856 ("Digitized by Internet Archive")), p. 42, "(Were you ever in Quebec)" (1 text)
Captain John Robinson, "Songs of the Chantey Man," a series published July-August 1917 in the periodical _The Bellman_ (Minneapolis, MN, 1906-1919). "Highland Laddie" is in Part 2, 7/21/1917.
Pete Seeger, "Hieland Laddie" (on PeteSeeger26)
cf. "Belle-a-Lee" (floating lyrics)
cf. "Stow'n' Sugar in de Hull Below" (floating lyrics)
cf. "Tommy's Gone to Hilo" (floating lyrics)
cf. "The Powder Monkey (Soon We'll Be in England Town)" (similar chorus)
cf. "Geordie Sits In Charlie's Chair" (tune and structure)
Mussel Mou'd Charlie (Kinloch-BalladBook, pp. xi-xiii)
Geordie Sits In Charlie's Chair (File: GrD1131)
NOTES [425 words]: Doerflinger-SongsOfTheSailorAndLumberman writes that this is "usually heard at the capstan ... as a walkaway shanty" (p. 50).
Both Nordhoff and Erskine heard this chantey in the 1840s from sailors acting as winter stevedores using cotton jack-screws to stow bales into waiting holds in New Orleans and Mobile. Nordhoff writes that -- in the versions he has heard -- the sailors are "calling to their minds the peculiarities of many spots with which they have become familiar in their voyagings." Erskine's version has that theme also: "Were you ever in Boston town... Where the ships sail up and down," "Were you ever in Mobile Bay... Screwing cotton by the day," "Were you ever in Miramachi... Where you make fast to a tree" and "Were you ever in Quebec... Stowing timber on the deck." Nordhoff adds "Were you ever in Dundee... There some pretty ships to see." - BS
Some versions of this song have verses or chorus about "Donkey riding, donkey riding, Riding on a donkey." This is legitimate shipboard technology, referring to a donkey engine (which might indeed need someone "riding" it to keep it running), but also caused the song to be tempting to children.
Since, however, there is no possible way to separate sea versions from kids' versions, I keep them as one song.
Riding the donkey might also be known as "donkeying around." Modern folkies may recognize this from Larry Kaplan's song "Old Zeb."
The "Isle o' Holt" of the Eckstorm/Smyth-MinstrelsyOfMaine is better known today as "Isle au Haut," subject (e.g.) of two Gordon Bok songs; the name is a corruption of Samuel Champlain's title "Ille Haulte" -- hence English versions "Aisle au Holt" and "Isle au Holt" (Roger F. Duncan, Coastal Maine: A Maritime History, 1992 (I use the 2002 Countryman Press paperback edition), p. 57 and note)- RBW
Day has another children's version from St. Vincent in the 1840s, probably modified from the shanty:
"Singing seems to be the grand feature, and I hear the children singing in chorus half the day. Pious ejaculations are accompanied by the drollest tunes. As a specimen, I may mention one of the St. Vincent melodies:
'Holy Bible, book divine, tural-ural, tural-ural,
Precious, precious, thou art mine, tural-ural, tural-ural'
The tune was 'Bonnie laddie, sodger laddie.'
'A boat, a bota unto the ferry,' is another infantile chorus, while the children promenade round the school room."
(Charles William Day, Five Years' [1846-1850] Residence in the West Indies (London: Colburn and Co., 1852 ("Digitized by Google")), Vol. 2, pp. 274-275) - BS
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