“Leaving of Liverpool”


The singer is preparing to sail from Liverpool. He bids farewell to the city and most especially to his sweetheart. He describes the difficult conditions he will face aboard the Davy Crockett under Captain Burgess


Despite the beauty of this song, it seems to have survived only in the single copy published by Doerflinger, which gave rise to all the pop/folk recordings.

Although the song refers to the ship as the "Davy Crockett," there was never (according to Octavius T. Howe and Frederick G. Matthews, _American Clipper Ships 1833-1858_ Volume I, p. 126) a clipper by that name; the ship was called the _David Crockett._ She was launched in late 1853. Designed for the Liverpool-to-New-York trade, she was transferred to the San Francisco route in 1857.According to Basil Lubbock, _The Down Easters: American Deep-water Sailing Ships 1869-1929_, p. 46, she "could hardly have been improved upon as a Cape Horner, being possessed not only of unusual speed and strength but of good carrying capacity."

She was also famous for her fast voyages, a tribute partly to her design but mostly to the harshness of her masters.

John A. Burgess took command of the ship in 1860, having previously commanded the _Governor Morton_ and the _Monarch of the Seas_. Burgess, according to Lubbock, p. 28, ?Burgess was not only a navigator of exceptional reputation, but one of those seamen who deligheed in the art of driving a ship under sail. Though a strict disciplinarian, he would allow no bucko methods, and was one of those rare master-men who were never known to swear or use bad language. His mates, Griffiths and Conrad, were men of the same type, who could get work out of an indifferent or vicious crew without using belaying-pins or knuckle-dusters."

Lubbock, pp. 266-267, gives a catalog of the _Crockett's_ trips around the Horn -- a total of 25 from 1857 to 1983. Burgess took command on her fourth voyage (1860), and captained 13 trips before his death; his mate John Anderson finished that trip and commanded the next two.

Burgess was on his way home to San Francisco to retire when he was washed overboard in 1874. According to Lubbock, p. 28, he was attempting to remove wreckage, a task he took upon himself rather than risk a crewman's life.

The _Crockett_ did not become an easier ship after his death. The June 2006 issue of _American History_ magazine has an article by Steve Wilson on impressment ("crimping," in American terms) on the American West Coast. It notes that one Andreas Stork in 1882 sued second mate Jesse Millais of the _Crockett_ for abuse -- and won! Given that sailors were expected to face harsh treatment, conditions on the _Crockett_ must have been bad indeed.

Based on Lubbock's list of voyages, the _Crockett_ made only one trip in 1882 and a last voyage in 1883. I wonder if the Stork suit didn't hasten her retirement from the route.

According to Lubbock, p. 49, the _Crockett_ was converted to a coal barge in 1890 and wrecked in 1899. - RBW


  1. Doerflinger, pp. 104-105, "The Leaving of Liverpool" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Silber-FSWB, p. 97, "The Leaving of Liverpool" (1 text)
  3. DT, LEAVLIV1*
  4. Roud #9435
  5. BI, Doe104


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1951 (Doerflinger)
Keywords: sailor parting abuse
Found in: US(MA)