I first got interested in "Blow, Boys, Blow" whilst browsing through The Book of Navy Songs
(Trident Society 1955) and looking for something to play on my concertina on Boxing Day in 1991. The lyrics I sing are however taken from Master Mariner W.B. Whall's Sea Songs Ships and Shanties
This a very fine song on a despicable theme (even in the previous century) of American maritime involvement in the slave trade. The Trident Society version is heavily sanitised with the slaving ship being changed into a liner and all references to slavery expurgated. These lyrics are attributed to a certain Joanna C. Colcord (she should be ashamed of herself). Yes, Sir, the nice young officers of the United States Navy shouldn't learn of their nation's unsavoury past in this matter!
Master Mariner W.B. Whall pulls no punches and leaves us in no doubt whatsoever. Not only does he give the lyrics as he recorded them but he also gives an illustration of the evil skipper ("Holy Joe, the nigger lover" in the song) dressed in white complete with whip taking possession of eleven, very black, practically naked and bound slaves. Above the scene the Stars and Stripes ("stars and bars" in the song) of the period fly proudly in the breeze. Our Master Mariner is very even handed on this subject. He chooses to illustrate that very British sea song Rolling Home
with a British slaver running under full sail before the wind!
Despite all the above, it's one hell of a song and I can easily imagine that down the ages literally millions of seamen have roared and ranted "Blow, Boys, Blow".