59 - Paint my sails red (Docks Shanty)

Words by © Carlo Ritchie
Tune by © Carlo Ritchie

Carlo Ritchie, comedian and founder of the Redfern Shanty Club in Sydney, wrote this song based on the life of Jeanne de Clisson and kindly gave us permission to reproduce it here. We've struggled to find a version recorded online, but Hannah knows it!

Born in 1300, Jeanne de Clisson and her third husband, Olivier, sided with France against the English in the Breton War of Secession. Enraged when the French king executed Olivier under suspicion of treason, Jeanne sought vengeance. She raised an army to attack French strongholds, and eventually went to England where the king gave her three warships. She had them painted black with red sails, and named her flagship 'My Revenge.' Her piracy was so notorious that she was mentioned in the 1347 Treaty of Calais. Escaping the wrecked ship with two of her sons, she rowed for five days back to England, while her younger son died. Finally, she married for a fourth time and retired from piracy.

Oh my name is De Clisson, no sailor am I,
But away 'cross the waves I am forced now to fly,
For the king whom I faithfully once bent my knee,
Has taken my lover away from me

So I’ll paint my sails red, and I’ll sail out to sea,
And I don’t care who they send to subjugate me
With my axe I’ll avenge on this patriarchy,
On those w’took my lover, away from me

Now boys look on the ramparts, your father’s up there,
Or his head is at least and his body’s somewhere,
Though your eyes fill with pity, my own fill with rage,
We will have our vengeance, I swear it this day

So I’ll paint my sails red, and I’ll sail out to sea,
And I don’t care who they send to subjugate me,
With my axe I’ll avenge on this patriarchy,
On those w’took my lover, away from me

So the French call me “traitor”, that England is “home”,
Though I fight for myself, I am no-ones to own,
'long this small stretch of coastline, shall my ship sail free,
A nightmare before whom the French will soon flee

So I’ll paint my sails red, and I’ll sail out to sea…

Oh my name is De Clisson, a pirate am I,
And as mother and matriarch proudly I’ll die,
And those men who so bravely, besmirch’d my name,
So quickly turn cowards out here on the main

So I’ll paint my sails red, and I’ll sail out to sea…