“The Boatsman and the Chest”


The boatsman's wife is being visited by the tailor when he comes home unexpectedly. The tailor hides in a chest. Knowing its contents, the husband deliberately takes the chest back to his ship. He tells the tailor he abducted him to keep him from his wife


In one version, the husband ships the chest (and the tailor) off to China. - PJS

This and similar songs are sometimes traced back to a story in Boccaccio (seventh day, second story: Gianella, Peronella, and her husband). But the story is really one of the basic themes of folktale, and doubtless predates Boccaccio as well as these songs. - RBW

Cross references


  1. Laws Q8, "The Boatsman and the Chest"
  2. Eddy 46, "Jolly Boatman" (1 text)
  3. JHCoxIIA, #23, pp. 91-93, "The Wealthy Merchant" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. FSCatskills 138, "The Jolly Boatswain" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Greenleaf/Mansfield 53, "The Boatswain and the Tailor" (1 text)
  6. Peacock, pp. 306-311, "The Old Bo's'n" (3 texts, 3 tunes)
  7. SHenry H604, pp. 505-506, "The Tailor in the Tea [Sea] Chest" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. Chappell-FSRA 52, "The Boatswain and the Chest" (1 text, 1 tune)
  9. SharpAp 52, "The Boatsman and the Chest" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  10. Gilbert, pp. 26-27, "The Sailor and the Tailor" (1 text)
  11. JHJohnson, pp.71-73, "The Boatswain and the Tailor" (1 text)
  13. Roud #570
  14. BI, LQ08


Alternate titles: “The Randy Tailor”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1916 (Cecil Sharp collection)
Found in: US(Ap,MA,MW,NE,SE) Canada(Newf) Britain(England) Ireland