“Bobby Shaftoe”


"Bobby Shaftoe's gone to sea, Silver buckles on his knee, He'll come back and marry me, Bonnie Bobby Shaftoe." The singer praises Bobby's appearance. (In some versions she ends by noting that he is "getting a bairn")


According to Stokoe, "Tradition connects this song with one of the Shaftoes of Bavinngton, who ran away to sea to escape the attentions of an enamoured lady of beauty and fortune.... The original air was entitled 'Brave Wully Forster,' and appears so in a manuscript music book in the Antiquarian Society's possession, dated 1694."

The Baring-Goulds, however, report that the "original Bobby Shafto is said to have lived at Hollybrook, County Wicklow, and died in 1737." But they add that a later verse, not found in "Songs for the Nursery," "was composed by the supporters of another Bobby Shafto -- Robert Shafto of Whitworth, a candidate for parliament in the election of 1761. He was said to be exceedingly handsome."

I wouldn't bet on any of those identifications. - RBW


  1. BrownIII 132, "Bobby Shaftoe" (1 text)
  2. Stokoe/Reay, pp. 12-13, "Bobby Shaftoe" (1 text, 1 tune); p. 198, "Bobby Shaftoe" (1 text)
  3. Opie-Oxford2 60, "Bobby Shafto's gone to sea" (2 texts)
  4. Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #153, pp. 116-117, "(Bobby Shafto's gone to sea)"
  5. Montgomerie-ScottishNR 75, "(Bobbie Shaftoe's gone to sea)" (1 short text)
  6. Silber-FSWB, p. 170, "Bobby Shaftoe" (1 text)
  8. ADDITIONAL: Walter de la Mare, _Come Hither_, revised edition, 1928; notes to #352, ("Bobby Shaftoe's gone to sea") (1 text)
  9. Roud #1359
  10. BI, FSWB170A


Alternate titles: “Bonny Bobby Shaftoe”; “Bobbie Shaftoe”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1805 (Songs for the Nursery, according to Opie-Oxford2)
Found in: Britain(England(North)) US(SE)