“Dead Man's Chest ”


"Fifteen men on a dead man's chest, Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum, Drink and the devil had done for the rest." A combination of rebellion and civil war in a (pirate?) crew results in the death of captain, bosun, cook, and most of the rest of the crew.


The origin of this piece is more than usually confused. The initial quatrain appears in Robert Louis Stevenson's _Treasure Island_ (1883), but he reports that he had it from another source. (According to David Cordingly, _Under the Black Flag: The Romance and Reality of Life among the Pirates_, Harcourt Brace, 1997 [copyright 1995], p. 5, the Dead Man's Chest comes from Charles Kingsley's _At Last_.)

In 1901, the full form of the piece is said to have appeared in a musical by Allison & Waller. Did they write it? I don't know. The Lomaxes printed their version from _Seven Seas_, September 1915. Apparently no author was listed.

Chances are that this is not a folk song, but it may have folk roots somewhere. - RBW


  1. Lomax-ABFS, pp. 512-514, "The Buccaneers (The Dead Man's Chest)" (1 text)
  2. DT, YOHOHO*
  3. BI, LxA512


Alternate titles: “Fifteen Men on a Dead Man's Chest”; “Yo Ho Ho”
Author: Allison & Waller ?
Earliest date: 1915