Andrew Poleson with Peter Hughson SA1974.237.4
This was one of several songs recorded in the Cooks’ house around 2.30am on July 27 1974, just after the last of the meat was taken away up to Symbister hall for the wedding guests at the dance. The older men had spent much of the evening socialising and drinking while the cauldrons of meat were stewing over the open fire, and now some of them felt like singing. Andrew sings just a fragment and the last two lines are taken over by ‘Old Peter’ Hughson, one of the men who had been in the Cook”s house for most of the day preparing the food. (See also The Anchor’s Weighed, which had been sung a few minutes earlier).
The Ramillies was a large warship with 90 guns, and almost 100 yrs old when she was driven ashore on the Devon coast during a hurricane in February 1760. One account says that only 26 of the 708 crew were saved when her anchors dragged and her stern smashed on the rocks. Numerous versions of the ballad survived into the 20th century.
A seven-verse rendering of this ballad with a was also recorded for the School of Scottish Studies by Alan Bruford from Orkneyman Peter Pratt. We have added six of Peter’s verses below; they were printed in Tocher vol. 3, 1971 p. 90 with a tune very similar to that sung here. Peter’s performance can be heard here. Two other versions are listed in the Roud index (no. 523)
‘Twas on a day, a brave summers’ day
The bold Ramilles from her anchor she lay …
On the very same day that the gale came on
And the bold Ramillies from her anchor ran.
Our topgallant masts and yards being struck
And everything on board being neat and snug,
With close-reefed topsails neatly spread
We were thinking for to weather the old Ram’s Head.
But the rain it came down with a dreadful shock;
The sea spread over our foretop;
Our ship she would neither stay nor wear
Nor yet gather way enough to steer.
Our captain piped ”All hands ahoy”:
“Come listen unto me while I pipe and cry;
Come launch out your boats your lives for to save,
Or else the seas will prove your grave.”
Then overboard our boats were tossed:
Some went in them but they were lost.
Some went to one place and some to another
But the watch down below they all were smothered.
When this sad news to Plymouth came
That the Ramillee was lost and the most of her men,
There was only one that was left for to tell
How the ship behaved in the dreadful gale.
Come all you pretty maidens, whoever you may be,
That has got your true lovers on the wide and open sea,
Pray for them whom you do adore
And pray for their safe return on shore.