“Ratcliffe Highway”


The sailor wanders down Ratcliffe Highway (and stops at an ale-house. What happens thereafter varies, e.g. he meets a girl, he fights with the landlady, etc.). After his business is done, he welcomes the chance to return to sea, even on a lousy old tub


Ratcliffe Highway is a road in London near Limehouse Reach. It ran near the docks of the British East India Company. Its was hardly the best part of town -- the "Ratcliffe Highway Murders" are mentioned in the Sherlock Holmes story _A Study in Scarlet_, and formed a backdrop for Thomas De Quincey's _Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts_.

The area's reputation eventually became so bad that the road was renamed St. George's Street. - RBW

One version of "The Deserter" has the man recruited on Ratcliffe Highway, and that version is also known by the name of "Ratcliffe Highway." - PJS

Cross references

  • cf. "Blow the Man Down" (floating lyrics; the songs often cross-fertilize)
  • cf. "The Deserter"


  1. Doerflinger, pp. 114-116, "As I Was A-Walking Down Ratcliffe Highway" (2 text, 2 tune)
  2. Hugill, pp. 200-201, "Ratcliffe Highway" (1 text plus 3 fragments, 1 tune) [AbEd, pp. 155-157]
  3. Vaughan Williams/Lloyd, p. 85, "Ratcliffe Highway" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Roud #598
  6. BI, Doe114


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1905
Found in: US(MA) Britain