Shanties at Tall
Ships Visit, Liverpool 08
THE sounds of melodious singing
voices, along with foot-tapping music swirled in the air in the
Liverpool pubs (The Lion, Baltic Fleet, Pig and Whistle, and Rigbys),
on board the Walk the Plank Ship, and in the open air at the
Wellington, Sandon and Albert Docks (Salthouse Dock, Anchor
courtyard) and strong amplifiers easily defeated the gale force
winds. At times, hardy landlubbers defied the blusters and
occasional rain to listen, and applaud deservedly, the gallant
On Friday, 18 July 2008’s evening at the Baltic Fleet Pub, from
eight till late, the festival guests regaled the pub’s customers
with shanties in fine traditional compositions. The ale, and other
drinks including the tasty barbecue were well patronised. The
crowded evening was greatly enjoyed by all.
On Saturday, 19 July 2008, in the afternoon, at the Floating Stage
in Salthouse Dock, a crowd listening to the Monkey’s Orphan. They
are a fine singing shanty group led by Derek Gifford and Geoff
Higginbottom. They performed from the floating stage well away from
the crowds moving along the road in front of the Albert Dock
buildings, yet they held many transfixed to the chains, which
stopped us from falling into the dock. They often said they could
see us clapping and waving to them. They were followed by Liverpool
Tradition. This group, who are always very popular and entertaining,
are led by Kevin Bargen. In comparison to most shanty groups, they
are quite large. Their harmonisation is well blended. They too, like
the previous acts, caused the visitors to stop and listen to the
music and words so skilfully delivered.
In the Anchor Courtyard, I managed to catch up with Scolds Bride.
These two very accomplished Fleetwood ladies told:- “We have
been singing together for 32 years”. During our chat, at the
end of their performance, I learnt that the loved ones, left behind
by the ships crews, did not have shanties, but special songs about
their situations as they awaited their men’s return. They have their
own special show entitled ‘Women Left On The Shore’.
One often finds at these gigs that one knows the tune, but the words
seemed different from the last time one heard it. Not a problem, for
some shanties which have words concerning the situation at the time
of composition. That knowledge made listening to Jacqueline
McDonald’s performance in the ship theatre, ‘Walk The Plank’
more relevant. Like many of the Shanty Crews, she has a great sense
of humour and really encourages her audience to join in with her.
She showed in her performance that she was very deservedly billed as
Liverpool’s first lady of song!
Another very important point about shantymen is that they have a
fine sense of rhythm and very clear diction. That was the case
whilst listening to ‘Four and Aft’, on Sunday
afternoon, 20 July 2008, by the Floating Stage. They really had to
struggle against the wind, which was thundering straight into them;
rather like being on board ship during a storm! Yet the difficulty
was not at all noticeable! Well done indeed, Andy Kenna and team.
The Boat Band is a very lively group, as are most shanty groups.
They are a smashing group to listen to. They had the audience in
‘Walk The Plank’ Theatre eating out of their hands. It
was a foot tapping, hand clapping group with a talented, multi
instrumental playing lady.
Good reports about the many other groups of shantymen were heard,
especially some very complimentary words about ‘La Moresca
Antica’ and ‘Les Souilles de Fond de Cale’. It
was a mecca for the devotees of shanties. To all those who
performed, well done and thank you.
A big thank you also to the stewards who did a fine job in keeping
the excellently planned one way circuit moving freely. The
organisers did an excellent job too in providing such a gigantic
crowd with an excellent three days entertainment. I hope that the
crews, who everyone were so pleased with and proud of, enjoyed their
visit to Liverpool, 2008 City of Culture; have a safe and excitingly