WIDOWS On The Shore - Audio, video, lyrics

If you think about it, the traditional sea shanties and songs that have survived to modern times are pretty exclusively man-centric. I got to wondering about the songs the women who stayed behind while their menfolk went to sea might have sung as they went about their work. 

One of my favorite seafaring adventure novels is Rudyard Kipling's Captains Courageous. If you've read it, you may recall that in a late chapter, the fishing town of Gloucester, Massachusetts, is holding a fundraising event in support of the town's widows and orphans of that season's making. We learn that in that one town alone, the town lost over 100 men and boys to the sea every year. Multiply that by all the fishing and seafaring villages along the American and Canadian coasts. Go across the Atlantic to Scandinavia, France, England, and Ireland. 

I got to thinking that the loss of so many beloved menfolk might well have been something that women of those days would have sung about. And so I tried to imagine a shanty from that point of view. The fourth verse (Jane's story) is very directly influenced by Kipling's depiction of the schooner captain's wife: 

"My father—my own eldest brother—two nephews—an' my second sister's man," she said, dropping her head on her hand. "Would you care fer any one that took all those?" 

Possibly there are some old-time women's sea shanties squirreled away somewhere. But if not, well, ladies, there's one for you now.

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Music video (studio recording)

Live at the 2019 Teign Shanty and Maritime Festival

Live at the 2018 Baltic Shanty Festival


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