23 - Fall Down Billy O'Shea

Words by Traditional
Tune by Traditional

This shanty tells the common story of being pressed. Between 1664 and 1814, impressment was used to fill the crews of British navy ships. Any man between 18 and 55 with sailing ability could be pressed into service by the Navy Impressment Service, known as 'The Press Gang'. The punishment for refusing was hanging. Having attempted to plead that they are non-sailors, the captain whips Billy O'Shea up the rigging, where his lack of topsman ability soon leads to his early demise. The cat referred to is the cat o' nine tails.

We all got drunk in Dublin city
Fall down me Billy
We all got drunk, sure more’s the pity
Fall down Billy O’Shea

Fall down, fall down, fall down me Billy
We’re bound away for Americay
Fall down Billy O’Shea

We lay ourselves down on Sir Rogerson’s Quay
And when we woke we were out to sea

We are not sailors captain dear
We come from the land and we won’t work here

Says the captain, “I’ve a cure for that”
“And here for a start is a dose of the cat”

So we sent him up to the top-mast yard
And when he hit the deck, oh! he took it hard

So we wrapped him in the Captain’s sail
And lowered him gently o’er the rail

Over the side and down he goes
Down to Davy Jones with a stitch through his nose

Oh and as he went I heard him say
I thought we were bound for Americay

We all got drunk in Dublin city
We all got drunk, sure more’s the pity