“Little Boy Billee (Le Petite Navire, The Little Corvette)”


English & French versions. Three Bristol men steal a ship and go to sea. Starving, Jack & Jimmy plot to eat Billee, but he asks to say his catechism first. Before he finishes, he sights the British fleet. Jack and Jimmy are hanged, Billee made an admiral


The song was apparently widespread among French sailors. The English version, possibly translated by Thackeray, seems almost a burlesque. And the similarities to "The Ship in Distress" are so acute that I suspect the songs are related. - PJS

To me, the question is more of the relations between Kennedy's various texts in multiple languages. If two songs have the same plot, and there is a version in another language with the same plot, how do you tell which song it belongs with? - RBW

Cross references


  • Bob Roberts, "Little Boy Billee" (on LastDays)


  1. Kennedy 114, "Le Petit Navire [The Little Corvette]" (French version -- 1 text + translation, 1 tune)
  2. Hugill, pp. 429-430, "Three Sailors of Bristol City" (1 text)
  3. BI, K114


Author: Unknown, English version possibly translated by William Thackeray
Earliest date: 1946 (Davenson, French version)
Found in: France