I have known "A-roving" all my life under various titles ("The maid of Amsterdam" for example) but it was only when working through Andrew Gant's Folk Songs of the British Isles
that I finally got round to working on it for the Vegesacker Whalermen. Andrew describes it as a traditional English sea-shanty (sic). Our revered Master Mariner W.B. Whall in his authoritative Sea Songs Ships and Shanties
states: The motive of this favourite sea song is very old indeed, and appears (in slightly varying forms) in many writings, e.g., in Thomas Heywood's Rape of Lucrece.
. The Master Mariner places the maid in Amsterdam and the two verse given hint at a bawdy encounter whilst Andrew prefers Plymouth and his verse are much sanitised.
As it is, this song goes down well with the Vegesacker Whalermen and it is a joy to hear Manfred Eichholz (the complete seaman) croaking his verses so convincingly. This is really a fine sea song
which many a landlubber entertainer and entaineress have taken into their repertoires.