"The Holy Ground" has a very special significance to me as it was the mess hymn of the Petty Officer's Mess of H.M.S. Lofoten, a fine old lady in which I had the privilege to serve in 1964. The Mess President, a fine Irish petty officer stoker from Dublin and a little long in the tooth (I was a mere stripling of 23 at the time dammit, and he was an ancient sod of some 45 years or more) had the song printed for our convenience. He ran a smart mess and sartorial elegance was the order-of-the-day. I was the youngest petty officer by more than 13 years, the next oldest was a seaman petty officer, Tony Hull, a Mancunian, from whom (grammar) I learned some pretty ribald stuff and who was starting on his late thirties. Every party or ceilidh, life was just one long party in that ship, was officially opened by ranting out this song and I reckon we could be heard over several leagues when roaring out in unison "Fine girls ye are"
At that time I didn't note it down but recovered the song years later from Roy Palmer's The Oxford Book of Sea Songs
. Brian Kelly also knew the song so it was great fun to sing it with him. As a really, really loud song, "The Holy Ground" goes fine with Yellow Girls
and one of Brian Kelly's
favourites, "Johnny goes down to Hilo".
Recently (October, 2013), I found another rousing 4-verse variant under the title of Swansea Town
given in Marrow Bones