“Mary Anne”


"Oh fare thee well, my own true love, Oh fare thee well my dear, For the ship is waiting and the wind blows free, And I am bound away to the sea, Mary Ann." The singer compares his pain at parting to that of a mourning dove or a lobster in a pot


Cazden et al report that the distinct subtext of "pretty little foot" group "...was written by stageman Barney Williams to a variant of the traditional tune, ascribed to M. Tyle. It was published as sheet music in Baltimore during 1856...."

Don Duncan reports of this version, "The melody is clearly related to the version re-popularized by Ian & Sylvia; Revels lists it in their songbook as having been collected by Marius Barbeau from a Canadian who had learned it from an Irish sailor "around 1850." I&S's "lobster/bluefish" verse is from the Williams version, which apparently was a bit of a spoof; the fourth verse is downright funky:

The pride of all the produce rare,

That in our garden grow'd

Was punkins, but none could compare

In angel form to my Mary Ann,

In angel form to my Mary Ann.

The Library of Congress has at least three song sheets (that is, I found three, one published in Baltimore and two in New York) in their American Memory 19th century song sheets collection... These have almost identical lyrics to the original, but rather than

repeating the final line of each verse (as the original did) they use the first verse as a chorus. "Our Mary Ann," by de Marsan in New York... identifies it as a minstrel song."

It is likely that some badly worn down versions of this song are filed with "Fare You Well, My Own True Love (The Storms Are on the Ocean, The False True Lover, The True Lover's Farewell, Red Rosy Bush, Turtle Dove)"; the latter song is a catch-all for songs of this type that don't mention Mary Anne or have the Roch Royal plot. - RBW

Broadside LOCSinging as110580: J. Andrews dating per _Studying Nineteenth-Century Popular Song_ by Paul Charosh in American Music, Winter 1997, Vol 15.4, Table 1, available at FindArticles site. - BS

Cross references


  • Bodleian, Johnson Ballads 1111, "My Mary Ann," A. Ryle and Co. (London), 1845-1859; also Firth c.12(366), Firth c.12(368), "My Mary Ann"
  • LOCSinging, as110580, "Our Mary Ann," J. Andrews (New York), 1853-1859; also sb30400b, "Our Mary Ann"; as109170, "My Mary Ann"; Harding B 15(288b), "My Mary Anne"


  1. BrownIII 300, "My Martha Ann" (1 text)
  2. Fowke/Johnston, pp. 142-143, "Mary Ann" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Fowke/MacMillan 48, "Mary Ann" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Lomax-FSNA 75, "Mary Ann" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Silber-FSWB, p. 147, "Mary Ann" (1 text)
  7. Roud #4438
  8. BI, FJ142


Alternate titles: “Ten Thousand Miles”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: before 1860 (broadside, LOCSinging as110580)
Found in: Canada(Que) US(Ap,MA,SE) Britain(England)