“Billy Riley”


Shanty. "Oh Billy Riley was a dancing master, O Billy Riley. Old Billy Riley, screw him up so cheer'ly, O Billy Riley O." Verses name members of Riley?s family and/or their occupations. Refrain changes each time based on which Riley is named in the verse.

Supplemental text

Billy Riley
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

From Joanna C. Colcord, Songs of American Sailormen (1938 edition),
p. 74. No source indicated.

Oh, Billy Riley, Mister Billy Riley,
  Oh Billy Riley O!
Oh, Billy Riley, Mister Billy Riley,
  Oh Billy Riley O!


Oh, Billy Riley was a boarding-master,
  Oh Billy Riley O!

Oh, Missus Riley didn't like us sailors
  Oh Billy Riley O!

Oh, Billy Riley had a pretty daughter,
  Oh Billy Riley O!


The liner notes to the Lloyd/MacColl recording "Blow, Boys, Blow" state "The sail would need to be light, or the occasion desperate, for men to haul at the halyards to tbe beat of such a fast song as this." But other sources don't seem to have noticed this. - RBW


  1. Colcord, p. 74, "O Billy Riley!" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Hugill, pp. 452-453, "Billy Riley" (1 text, 1 tune) [AbrEd, p. 338]
  3. Sharp-EFC, LVIII, p. 63, "O Billy Riley" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. ST Hug452 (Full)
  5. Roud #4701
  6. BI, Hug452


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1914 (Sharp-EFC)
Keywords: shanty
Found in: West Indies Britain