I first heard "Barrat's Privateers" together with Witch of the Westmoreland
and "White Collar Holler" being sung by Stan Rogers
(who has been the subject of quite a lot of correspondence) on a Wally Whyton
folk-music programme broadcast by the British Forces Broadcasting Service, here in Germany, in July 1983. It was an electrifying experience for me, the hair on the back of my neck rose and I was dumbfounded. The song was so authentic that it sent me scrambling through my songbooks all the time wondering why I had never heard such a marvellous song before. I was almost on the point of writing to Roy Palmer to ask him why it wasn't in his The Oxford Book of Sea Songs
but over the years quietly forgot it (no Internet or Email in those days!).
It was only after some Internet correspondence in 1998 with a certain "Sacred Cowboy" that I learned more about Stan Rogers and his repertoire. The only information that the broadcasters gave in 1983 was that he was Canadian and that he had recently died.
For an example of authenticity just grab this:
"The Antelope sloop was a sickening sight. How I wish I was in Cherbourg now
She'd a list to port and her sail in rags,
The cook in the scuppers with the staggers and jags"
For those not in the know, "the staggers and the jags" was a late 18th century euphemism for a particular anti-social disease of the willy. Now this expression had completely died out almost two hundreds of years ago. This together with absolutely authentic naval and maritime expressions in every verse coupled with mysterious inconsistencies (no mention of a sloop called Antelope in the annals or the navigational difficulties of getting to Montego Bay) lead me to believe that this was a rare 18th century sea song. It really baffled me that such a good song should ever die out.
Well, at the above site I learned all and was again astonished to find out that "Barrat's Privateers" is very modern and originates from Stan Rogers vivid imagination and his reported desire to out-sing some a cappella Brits he had been singing with.
By the way, "Cherbourg" in the chorus above is my transcription mistake, I misheard Sherborne (in Newfoundland). There are some other transcription mistakes that I made but after singing "my" version for 16 years I'm not keen on changing to the "real" version (pace Stan)
. This is subject to correspondence with the above site.