Ratcliffe Highway

DESCRIPTION: The sailor wanders down Ratcliffe Highway (and stops at an ale-house. What happens thereafter varies, e.g. he meets a girl, he fights with the landlady, etc.). After his business is done, he welcomes the chance to return to sea, even on a lousy old tub
AUTHOR: unknown
KEYWORDS: sailor courting whore fight
FOUND IN: US(MA) Britain(England(South))
REFERENCES (9 citations):
Doerflinger-SongsOfTheSailorAndLumberman, pp. 114-116, "As I Was A-Walking Down Ratcliffe Highway" (2 text, 2 tune)
Hugill-ShantiesFromTheSevenSeas, pp. 200-201, "Ratcliffe Highway" (1 text plus 3 fragments, 1 tune) [AbEd, pp. 155-157]
Hugill-SongsOfTheSea, p. 74, "Ratcliffe Highway" (1 text, 1 tune)
Kinsey-SongsOfTheSea, pp. 137-139, "Ratcliffe Highway" (1 text, 1 tune)
VaughanWilliams/Lloyd-PenguinBookOfEnglishFolkSongs, p. 85, "Ratcliffe Highway" (1 text, 1 tune)
Williams-Wiltshire-WSRO Wt 353, "Down Ratcliffe Highway" (1 text)
Purslow-TheConstantLovers, pp. 75-76, "Ratcliffe Highway" (1 text, 1 tune)
Palmer-OxfordBookOfSeaSongs, "Ratcliffe Highway" (1 text, 1 tune)

Roud #598
cf. "Blow the Man Down" (floating lyrics; the songs often cross-fertilize)
cf. "The Deserter"
NOTES [258 words]: Ratcliffe Highway is a road in London near Limehouse Reach. It ran near the docks of the British East India Company. Its was hardly the best part of town -- the "Ratcliffe Highway Murders" are mentioned in the Sherlock Holmes story A Study in Scarlet, and formed a backdrop for Thomas De Quincey's Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts. Seven people were killed in two incidents in December 1811, according to Weinreb/Hibbert, p. 638. This eventually became one of the justifications for the foundation of the Metropolitan Police.
Cordingly, p. 7, says "This street lay to the north of the wharves on the riverfront at Wapping. It was described in 1600 by John Stow as 'a continual street, or filthy straight passage, with alleys of small tenements or cottages builded, inhabited by sailors and victuallers.' Most sailors... were looking for women and drink, and the establishments along the Ratcliffe Highway provided for their needs."
Benet, p. 909, says that the highway ran "from one end of the place of execution at Wapping along the Thames into the city."
Ratcliff (the spelling used in Weinreb/Hibbert) is now part of the borough of Stepney, according to Weinreb/Hibbert, pp. 632-633, and -- being a slum area -- suffered many fires and disasters as well as the crimes so widely remembered. The area's reputation eventually became so bad that the road was renamed St. George's Street. - RBW
One version of "The Deserter" has the man recruited on Ratcliffe Highway, and that version is also known by the name of "Ratcliffe Highway." - PJS
Bibliography Last updated in version 5.1
File: Doe114

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