The version of Bobby Shaftoe
that I sing can be found in Folk Songs of the British Isles
. I've know since childhood and in my boyhood considered it a silly girls skipping song. Nowadays (2000) however we sing it regularly and vigorously in The Vegesack Whalermen
. We have a lot of fun in speeding up the tempo and repeating the final chorus. According to the songbook's compiler, Andrew Gant, the text and melody are attributed to J. Bruce and J. Stokoe respectively as given in the Northumbrian Minstrelsy
Since writing the above in 2000, I now (2012) sing it regularly with the Tyneside Maritime Chorus
where it generally used along with Adam Buckham
as a warmer-upper and a programme opener.
The Bishoprick Garland
(1834) informs us that the verse Bobby Shaftoe's looking out, All his ribbon's flew about, All the ladies gave a shout, - Hey, for Bobbie Shaftoe,
was actually used for electioneering. In 1761, Robert Shaftoe, of Whitworth, Esq., was the favourite candidate, and who was popularly called "Bonny Bobby Shaftoe. His portrait at Whitworth, represents him as very young and handsome, and with yellow hair. Miss Bellsayse, the heiress of Brancepeth, is said to have died of love for him.
John Stokoe in his Songs and Ballads of Northern England
(1893) wrote that tradition connects this song with one of the Shaftoes of Bavington
, who ran away to sea to escape the attentions of beauty and fortune, who loved not only wisely but too well. The original air was entitled Brave Wully Forster, and appears so in a manuscript music book in the Antiquarian Society's possession, dated 1694.
It is quite possible that the old time music hall performer Charles Ernest Catcheside-Warrington
performed this song as he published it in his Tyneside Songs Volume 4
It is also given in Rhymes of Northern Bards
(1812) and a pleasing arrangement of Bobby Shaftoe
can be found in Singing Hinnies Book 1
This song may be found in the Tyneside Maritime Chorus songbook