“A Long Time Ago”


Shanty. Characteristic line: "[To me] way, hey, hey, yah... A long time ago." Texts vary; many have to do with the troubles of seagoing life; one complains about serving an a boat so old it "must have been the ark that Noah built..."

Supplemental text

Long Time Ago, A
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

From Eloise Hubbard Linscott, Folk Songs of Old New England, pp. 141-142.
"Sung by Captain Charlton L. Smith... of Marblehead, Massachusetts."

A long, long time, and a very long time to me, way-hay-heigh-o,
A long, long time, and a very long time, and a long time ago.

While strolling out one morning fair, to me, way-hay-heigh-o,
I met a maiden in despair a long time ago.


In 1833 one T. Rice sang a minstrel song by this name in "The Ethiopian Opera," with the sheet music published by John Cole of Baltimore; that may well have been the ancestor of this shanty. - PJS

Same tune

  • De Hoffnung (File: Hugi104)

Cross references


  • Richard Maitland, "A Long Time Ago" (AFS, 1939; on LC27)
  • David Pryor et al: "Long Time Ago" (AAFS 505 B, 1935; on LomaxCD1822-2)


  1. Doerflinger, pp. 37-43, "A Long Time Ago" (6 texts, 4 tunes)
  2. Colcord, pp. 65-68, "A Long Time Ago" (1 text plus several fragments, 1 tune)
  3. Harlow, pp. 60-62, "A Long Time Ago" (2 texts, 1 tune)
  4. Hugill, pp.97-105, 156, 215, "A Long Time Ago," "Up, Up, My Boys, Up a Hill" (11 texts, 4 tunes. Version "C" is "In Frisco Bay", version "F" is
  5. "A-Rovin'", version "G" is "A Hundred Years Ago." Other versions borrow heavily from "Roll the Cotton Down," Blow the Man Down" and "Blackball Line") [AbEd, pp. 88-94]
  6. Sharp-EFC, XLIV, p. 49, "A Long Time Ago" (1 text, 1 tune)
  7. Linscott, pp. 141-142, "A Long Time Ago" (1 fragment, 1 tune)
  8. Shay-SeaSongs, p. 48, "A Long Time Ago" (1 text, 1 tune); p. 47, "Around Cape Horn" (1 short text to the same tune)
  9. Lomax-FSNA 28, "A Long Time Ago" (1 text, 1 tune)
  10. Lomax-ABFS, pp. 306-207, "Long Time Ago" (1 text, 1 tune)
  11. Darling-NAS, pp. 312-313, "A Hundred Years" (1 text, with the phrase "A hundred years ago" replacing "A long time ago")
  12. DT, (NOAHARK)
  13. ST Doe037 (Full)
  14. Roud #318
  15. BI, Doe037


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1906
Keywords: shanty sailor ship
Found in: US(MA) Bahamas