Leaving of Liverpool
DESCRIPTION: The singer is preparing to sail from Liverpool. He bids farewell to the city and most especially to his sweetheart. He describes the difficult conditions he will face aboard the Davy Crockett under Captain Burgess
EARLIEST DATE: 1951 (Doerflinger-SongsOfTheSailorAndLumberman)
KEYWORDS: sailor parting abuse
FOUND IN: US(MA)
REFERENCES (5 citations):
Doerflinger-SongsOfTheSailorAndLumberman, pp. 104-105, "The Leaving of Liverpool" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hugill-SongsOfTheSea, p. 35, "Leaving of Liverpool" (1 text, 1 tune)
Palmer-OxfordBookOfSeaSongs 120, "The Leaving of Liverpool" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber/Silber-FolksingersWordbook, p. 97, "The Leaving of Liverpool" (1 text)
NOTES [519 words]: Despite the beauty of this song, it seems to have survived only in the single copy published by Doerflinger-SongsOfTheSailorAndLumberman, which gave rise to all the pop/folk recordings. Palmer claims to have heard it sung, but he doesn't actually list where he heard it; I have little doubt all his versions go back to Doerflinger-SongsOfTheSailorAndLumberman, perhaps via Ewan MacColl's recording.
Although the song refers to the ship as the "Davy Crockett," there was never (according to Howe/Matthews, p. 126; compare the index in Knoblock) a clipper by that name; the ship was called the David Crockett. She was launched in late 1853. Designed for the Liverpool-to-New-York trade, she was transferred to the San Francisco route in 1857. According to Lubbock, p. 46, she "could hardly have been improved upon as a Cape Horner, being possessed not only of unusual speed and strength but of good carrying capacity." Similarly Paine, p. 133, reports that she "combined large carrying capacity with good speed and was regarded by some as 'almost perfect.'"
She was also famous for her fast voyages, a tribute partly to her design but mostly to the harshness of her masters.
John A. Burgess took command of the ship in 1860, having previously commanded the Governor Morton and the Monarch of the Seas (Knoblock, p. 87). Burgess, according to Lubbock, p. 28, "was not only a navigator of exceptional reputation, but one of those seamen who delighted in the art of driving a ship under sail. Though a strict disciplinarian, he would allow no bucko methods, and was one of those rare master-men who were never known to swear or use bad language. His mates, Griffiths and Conrad, were men of the same type, who could get work out of an indifferent or vicious crew without using belaying-pins or knuckle-dusters."
Lubbock, pp. 266-267, gives a catalog of the Crockett's trips around the Horn -- a total of 25 from 1857 to 1983. Burgess took command on her fourth voyage (1860), and captained 13 trips before his death; his mate John Anderson finished that trip and commanded the next two.
Burgess was on his way home to San Francisco to retire when he was washed overboard in 1874 (Knoblock, p. 86). According to Lubbock, p. 28, he was attempting to remove wreckage, a task he took upon himself rather than risk a crewman's life.
The Crockett did not become an easier ship after his death. Wilson/AmHist discusses impressment ("crimping," in American terms) on the American West Coast. It notes on p. 80 that one Andreas Stork in 1882 sued second mate Jesse Millais of the Crockett for abuse -- and won! Given that sailors were expected to face harsh treatment, conditions on the Crockett must have been bad indeed.
Based on Lubbock's list of voyages, the Crockett made only one trip in 1882 and a last voyage in 1883. I wonder if the Stork suit didn't hasten her retirement from the route.
According to Lubbock, p. 49, the Crockett was converted to a coal barge in 1890 and wrecked in 1899. Paine, p. 133, notes that her figurehead still exists and is held by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.- RBW
Last updated in version 5.0
- Howe/Matthews: Octavius T. Howe and Frederick G. Matthews, American Clipper Ships 1833-1858 (Volume I), 1926 (I use the 1986 Dover paperback reprint)
- Knoblock: Glenn A. Knoblock, The American Clipper Ship, 1845-1920: A Comprehensive History with a Listing of Builders and Their Ships, McFarland & Company, 2014
- Lubbock: Basil Lubbock, The Down Easters: American Deep-water Sailing Ships 1869-1929, 1929, 1930 (I use the 1987 Dover paperback edition which is slightly rearranged but uses the full original text)
- Paine: Lincoln P. Paine, Ships of the World: An Historical Encylopedia, Houghton Mifflin, 1997
- Wilson/AmHist: Steve Wilson, "Of Crimps and Shanghaid Sailors," article in American History magazine, June 2006, pp. 56-62, 80
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