The version of "John's Gone to Hilo" that I sing can be found in Sea Songs Ships and Shanties
; here our Master Mariner waxed lyrically. He wrote
This was a favourite hauling song, the pulls being at the accent marks. The reference to Yankee sailors takes us back to the time when our men wore "pumps" or went barefoot, the Americans favouring long sea-boots, the leather inside being tanned rad, the top of the boot turning over and showing this. They were not what we now term "top-boots". A good shantyman would take Johnny all round the world to ports with three syllables - Montreal, Rio Grande, Newfoundland, or any as such as might occur to him.
In my performance I try to do it as the master intended. In the hands of Nina Kreft
however, she makes into a sad haunting love song. Very impressive.