Robbie T. Hutchison                                                                        SA 1974.11.11

Oh ‘twas of a stately Southerner that flew the Stripes and Stars
An’ a spanking wind from the west nor’west blew through our pitch-pine spars,
And with our larboard tacks on board  we raced before the gale,

It was on the night we raised the light of the Old Head of Kinsale.

Oh the night was dark and cloudy and the wind blows steady and strong
As gaily o’er the bounding waves our good ship bowled along.
The foaming waves from our good ship’s bows a fiery track she spread,
While bending low to a squall of snow she buried her lee cathead.

There was no order to shorten sail by him who trod the poop,
For by the weight of our ponderous jib, the boom bent like a hoop;
Our groaning chess-tree told the strain upon our stout main tacks,
But he only laughed as he glanced abaft at our white and sparkling track.

Where the ebb tide meets the channel sweeps that flows from shore to shore
The mist hung heavy on our lee from Featherstone to Dunmore;
The early mist of the morning grey hung heavy on our lee,   
When the lookout from the masthead cried, ‘ A strange sail, sir, I see.”

“What ship is yon on our starboard beam that hangs upon the breeze? 
It’s time our good ship hauled her wind abreast of the Old Saltees”
But by her crowding press of sail an’ by her lofty spars
We knew our morning visitor was a British man-of-war.

Up spoke our gallant captain as a shot ahead of us passed,
Haul tightly your flowing courses, haul your  topsails to the mast.
An’ at his word we raised aloft an’ off our gaskets cast
An royals and 74.11.11top-gallant sails was quickly on each mast. 

Oh it’s tack an’ tack throughout the night we stood from shore to shore
An’ early in the morning John Bull he was no more
We’ll fly aloft the stars and bars, the flag that we do boast
An’ John Bull, the terror of the sea will fly him on the coast. 

Learned from Robbie’s  uncle James, this is one of several songs connected with the exploits of the American privateer Paul Jones during the American War of Independence.  In 1778 Paul Jones sailed into the Irish Sea to harass British shipping and there met and out-sailed a powerful British man-of war. Robbie said after singing it, “There may be other verses” – which is true –  and that, “A lot of old men kent that sang”.   Not surprisingly over a score of versions have been collected in the USA and Canada as well as several from English and Welsh ports and one version that James Madison Carpenter collected in Dundee.

Susan Kent, a visitor to our site, has kindly sent me  a text which she found among the papers of her grandfather James Cater, a seafarer who for some years from 1919 was a Trinity House pilot and who  sailed the yacht Corryvreckan around the world in 1911.  She thinks however that the person who penned it was James’ cousin John Cater: he was at that time captain of the royal  racing yacht Britannia.  This text is provided  below after a another brief Whalsay version sung by Willie Williamson.


Willie Williamson                                                                                 SA1971.213 .12

Willie recorded just one verse of this ballad for us.

T’was of the stately Southern barque who flew the Stripes and Stars
And a spanking wind from the west nor’west blew through her pitch-pine spars
And with the starboard tack on board she raced before the gale,
On an Autumn night she raised the light of the Old Head of Kinsale.
On an Autumn night she raised the light of the Old Head of Kinsale.

“Something like that, but I don’t know of any more of it at all.  But, er… I thinkit – Tommy would have that … Tommy Simpson”.


From the James Cater papers:-