73 - Salt Liberty - The Ballad of Mary Lacy

Words by Rosie Sharkey
Tune by Rosie Sharkey

Based on the account from "The Female Shipwright, or Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Mary Lacy", published in 1773.

I grew up as a girl in the fields of Kent
And the name I was given was Mary
I learned a girl’s duties and all that they meant
To stay pure, hold my tongue, guard my beauty

But I longed for the sea
Salt liberty
And the name that I chose was William

When I could I climbed trees and lay in the sun
Up aloft where the wind shakes the boughs
But for maids there is always hard work to be done
As the horses are yoked to the plough

But I longed for the sea
Salt liberty
And the name that I chose was William

At the age of nineteen, I first broke my heart
My sweetheart so fair looked right through me
It was then I resolved that I’d make a new start
Far away in some place no one knew me

But I longed for the sea…

On the first day of May, 1759
As the sun rose I stole from my chamber
With a pack of men’s clothes that I’d stole from the line
I strode out, little minding the danger

But I longed for the sea…

As I roved out I scattered my old clothes behind
Leaving stockings in ditches and hedgerows
I was dressed like a man and I’d made up my mind
To cast off my old name with my old clothes

My first name was Mary, for our lady so mild
And Lacy my old maiden name
I chose Chandler, my mother’s surname as a child
And my father’s first name which was William.

But I longed for the sea…

I made for the dockyard in old Chatham town
And a hawk-eyed recruiter soon spied me
He bought me some ale and sat me right down
There’s good work and fine weather at sea, boy

As Will Chandler I served on his Majesty’s ship
The Sandwich, a ninety gun ship of the line
My master was Baker, the carpenter there
A foul-tempered drunk though when sober quite kind

But I longed for the sea…

As I lived as a man I’d my corner to fight
One knave William Severy would taunt me
I squared up for a match with him one stormy night
Though he near dashed my brains out I never gave in

But I longed for the sea…

When the seven years war ended in ‘63
My joy was too great to contain
Released from the Navy, apprentice to be
A shipwright in Portsmouth I resolved to remain

As Will Chandler then, on the Royal William,
I learned to coax boats from the lumber
And found love in the arms of sweet Sarah Chase
And coaxed from her kisses so tender

But I longed for the sea…

After seven long years I was shipwright made free
But my joints were seized up with the rheumatism
So I set out my case to the Admiralty
The reward for my labours a navy pension

I took up my old name, that I’d shed long ago
And in Deptford I married and lived out my days
Six children I bore and four children I lost
And in 1801 I was laid in my grave

But I longed for the sea…