Leave her Johnny

At the pumps

Here's a sea song that was sung at the pumps on the western ocean packet ships, according to Stan Hugil, possibly as early as the time of the Potato Famine. There are hundreds of verses form which I selected a few that go nicely together. The tune is from the singing of Dave van Ronk.


Time were hard and the wages low
Leave her Johhny, leave her
I guess it’s time for us to go
It's time for us to leave her.

Beware these packet ships I say
They’ll steal your stores and your clothes away

There’s Liverpool Pat with his tarpaulin hat
And Yankee John the packet rat

The skipper was bad but the mate was worse
He’d blow you down with a spike and a curse.

I was rotten meat and weavilly bread
It was pump or drown the old man said

The sails all furled and our work is done
And now for shore we’ll take our run

We'll make her fast an' stow our gear,
The gals are a-waitin' on the pier.

Oh, our Old Man he don't set no sail,
We'd be better off in a nice clean gaol.

Ah what will us poor shell-backs do
Our money’s gone no work to do

Leave her, Johnny, leave her!
For the voyage is done and the winds don’t blow,

No more Cape Horn, no more stand-by,
We'll pump her out and leave her dry.

Our voyage is done and the wind don't blow
It's time for us to leave her.