Join us each month in song!
Since 2016—our designated Year of Song—CDSS has featured a traditional song each month. Lorraine Hammond spearheaded this effort, and it was such a popular feature that Judy Cook volunteered to continue the tradition in 2017 and beyond.
Note: Many of these old songs should be looked at as “fairy tales for adults” in that they often address very strong, and sometimes scary, subject matter. They allow us to deal with difficult situations and emotions with the distance afforded by putting it in a song. They are cautionary tales, and had their use as such.
This month’s song:
- November 2023: The Handsome Cabin Boy
Submitted by Sally Rogers
Sally originally learned “The Handsome Cabin Boy” out of Jean Ritchie’s “Dulcimer People” book. She was on a search for songs with women dressing as men for all the many reasons they might do that. This is a wonderful and singable example of those songs.
Listen to Gordon Bok performing “The Handsome Cabin Boy:”
’Tis of a handsome female as you may understand,
Her mind bein’ set on ramblin’ unto some foreign land,
She dressed herself in men’s attire or so it does appear,
And hired on with our captain to serve him for a year.
The captain’s wife, she bein’ on board, she seemed in great joy
To think her husband had engaged such a handsome cabin boy.
And now and then she’d slip him a kiss and she would’ve liked to toy
But ’twas the captain found out the secret of our handsome cabin boy.
Her cheeks were red and rosy, her hair was all in curls
The sailors ofttimes smiled and said, “Why he looks just like a girl!”
But eatin’ of the captain’s biscuits her color did destroy
And the waist did swell of our pretty Nell the handsome cabin boy.
Around the bay of Biscay our gallant ship did plow
Among the sailors there arose such a frightful, scurryin’ row.
They tumbled from their hammocks for their sleep it did destroy.
And they cursed about the groanin’ of our handsome cabin boy.
“Oh, Doctor, dearest Doctor,” the cabin boy did cry,
“My time it is come and I am undone and I must surely die,”
The doctor come a runnin’ and a smilin’ at the fun,
To think a sailor lad should have a daughter or a son.
The sailors come a runnin’, they came to gape and stare,
The child belonged to none of them, they solemnly did swear.
The captain’s wife she smiled at him and said, ‘Dear, I wish you joy,
For was either you or I betrayed the handsome cabin boy.”
Then each man took his tot of rum and drank success to trade,
And likewise to the cabin boy who was neither man nor maid.
Here’s hoping that the wars don’t rise again, our sailors to destroy,
And here’s hopin’ for a jolly lot more like our handsome cabin boy.
Sally Rogers has been a songwriter, performer and educator for more than 40 years, and she is still steaming ahead, warming hearts and minds wherever she goes. Her songs “Lovely Agnes” and “Touch of the Master’s Hand” have frequently been mistaken for traditional, while “Love Will Guide Us” and “Circle of the Sun” are now anthems for rituals of passage and protest.
- October 2023: Seal Lullaby
- September 2023: Cock Robin
- August 2023: Dives and Lazarus
- July 2023: How to Make Love
- June 2023: The Lazy Farmer
- May 2023: We’re All Jolly Fellows that Follow the Plough
- April 2023: Reynardine
- March 2023: Free and Easy to Ramble Along
- February 2023: The Rose in June
- January 2023: Bed Is Too Small
- December 2022: Jack Ashton
- November 2022: Wild Mountain Thyme
- October 2022: I’ve Lived in Service
- September 2022: London Town
- August 2022: Yuba Dam
- July 2022: Bibble A La Do
- June 2022: The Golden Willow Tree
- May 2022: Ford o’ Kabul River
- April 2022: Bold Riley
- March 2022: The Foggy Dew
- February 2022: Scarborough Settler’s Lament
- January 2022: Tom o’Bedlam’s Song
- December 2021: We Shepherds Be the Best of Men
- November 2021: Catch Me If You Can
- October 2021: Somebody’s Waiting for Me / Country Garden
- September 2021: The Water Is Wide
- August 2021: Springfield Mountain
- July 2021: Shove the Grog Around (Shanty Song)
- June 2021: The Cruel Mother
- May 2021: Katie Catch
- April 2021: A Pilgrim’s Way
- March 2021: Glenlogie
- February 2021: Sprig of Thyme
- January 2021: Lord Bateman
- December 2020: Brave Boys
- November 2020: Abroad as I Was Walking
- October 2020: The Dowie Dens o’ Yarrow
- September 2020: The Setting of the Sun
- August 2020: Annachie Gordon
- July 2020: Stand Steady
- June 2020: Braw Lads of Galla-water
- May 2020: The Lincolnshire Poacher
- April 2020: The Hills of Mexico
- March 2020: I Saw Three Ships
- February 2020: The Trooper and the Tailor
- January 2020: Lost on the Lady Elgin
- December 2019: Bright Phoebe
- November 2019: Tickle Cove Pond
- October 2019: I’m Going Back to North Carolina
- September 2019: For the Company Underground
- August 2019: The Maid of Sweet Gurteen
- July 2019: Starving to Death on a Government Claim
- June 2019: Annan Water
- May 2019: The Shearin’s No’ For You
- April 2019: Shady Grove
- March 2019: Bedlam
- February 2019: The Bonny Bunch of Roses
- January 2019: Ambletown
- December 2018: Throw Open Your Shutters
- November 2018: The Wild Rover
- October 2018: She’s Like the Swallow
- September 2018: The Night Guard
- August 2018: Here’s Adieu to All Judges and Juries
- July 2018: Sailing
- June 2018: Earl o’Bran
- May 2018: Georgie
- April 2018: A Sailor’s Life
- March 2018: The Banks of Red Roses
- February 2018: The Boy That Wore The Blue
- January 2018: The Bay Of Biscay
- December 2017: Song, Composed in August
- November 2017: The Devil Buck
- October 2017: Double Sledder Lad
- September 2017: Sweet William’s Ghost
- August 2017: Welcome Home My Sailor
- July 2017: Drive Dull Care Away
- June 2017: When I Went for to Take My Leave
- May 2017: Bonnie Annie
- April 2017: The Death of Bill Brown
- March 2017: Money Is King
- February 2017: Tha Sneachd’Air Druim Uachdair
- January 2017: The January Man
- December 2016: Lamb and Lion
- November 2016: Farther On
- October 2016: Skin and Bones
- September 2016: Canaan’s Land
- August 2016: Farmer’s Daughter
- July 2016: Ladies Rejoice
- June 2016: The Press Gang
- May 2016: Dancing at Whitsun
- April 2016: Spring
- March 2016: The Bonnie Blue-Eyed Lassie
- February 2016: Paper of Pins
- January 2016: May It Fill Your Soul