“The Flying Cloud”


Singer Edward (Hollohan) abandons the cooper's trade to be a sailor. At length he falls in with Captain Moore, a brutal slaver. Moore later turns pirate. When his ship is finally taken, the remaining sailors are sentenced to death


Doerflinger notes that there is no pirate ship known to have carried the name "The Flying Cloud." He suggests that the story is based on the book _The Dying Declaration of Nicholas Fernandez_, based loosely on the life of one of Benito de Soto's pirate crew (Fernandez was executed in 1829). Doerflinger shows the title page of the book on p. 336.

Laws and others, though, note that most of these elements are commonplace.

Belden lists various other ships called by the name, but they were all legitimate vessels, including the clipper mentioned below that set the record, anchor to anchor, sailing from New York to San Francisco.

I wonder if the pirate's name "Moore" might have been inspired by the Moors, since the Barbary pirates were sometimes called (not very correctly) Moors.

The song feels fairly old, but the impression may be false. Most of the earliest references seem to be from about 1890, as if the song were composed in the 1880s or so.

Jonathan Lighter speculated, "My impression is that the song very possibly originated in the 1880s or a bit earlier, perhaps?in a dime novel as no early broadside has ever been discovered. The evocative name 'Flying Cloud' may have been chosen because the fame of the real ship had long been forgotten by the general public."

If so, then the ship name was inspired by the clipper _Flying Cloud_, built 1851, which twice set records for the New York-to-San Francisco run in the 1850s. Though to call a slaver by that name hardly seems a fitting tribute.

(Horace Beck explains this by positing that the slaving verses are not integral to the piece; he speculates that the whole thing is a composite of two songs.) - RBW


  • Warde Ford, "The Flying cloud" [fragment] (AFS 4202 B1, 1938; tr.; in AMMEM/Cowell)
  • Clifford Wedge, "The Flying Cloud" (on MREIves01)


  1. Laws K28, "The Flying Cloud"
  2. Belden, pp. 128-131, "The Flying Cloud" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Doerflinger, pp. 135-139, "The Flying Cloud" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  4. Greenleaf/Mansfield 173, "The Flying Cloud" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Creighton/Senior, pp. 223-225, "The Flying Cloud" (1 text plus 1 fragment)
  6. Creighton-NovaScotia 62, "Flying Cloud" (1 text, 1 tune)
  7. Peacock, pp. 842-845, "The Flying Cloud" (1 text, 2 tunes)
  8. Leach-Labrador 58, "The Flying Cloud" (1 text, 1 tune)
  9. Mackenzie 111, "The Flying Cloud" (1 text)
  10. Ives-DullCare, pp. 223-226,245, "The Flying Cloud" (1 text, 1 tune)
  11. Colcord, pp. 145-147, "The Flying Cloud" (1 text, 1 tune)
  12. Hugill, p. 586, "The Flying Cloud" (1 tune, included in Hugill's entry on "Dixie Brown"; he states that it has been used for several forebitters, "Arthur Hollander" [i.e. "The Flying Cloud"], "Girls of Cape Horn" ["Rounding the Horn"], "The Sailor's Way," and "Go To Sea Once More" ["Dixie Brown"])
  13. Rickaby 41, "The Flying Cloud" (1 text, 1 tune)
  14. Dean, pp. 1-2, "The Flying Cloud" (1 text)
  15. Leach, pp. 778-781, "The Flying Cloud" (1 text)
  16. Friedman, p. 411, "The Flying Cloud" (1 text, 1 tune)
  17. Warner 2, "The Flying Cloud" (1 text, 1 tune)
  18. FSCatskills 115, "The 'Flying Cloud'" (1 text, 1 tune)
  19. Fowke/MacMillan 9, "The Flying Cloud" (1 text, 1 tune)
  20. Shay-SeaSongs, pp. 183-186, "The Flying Cloud" (1 text, 1 tune)
  21. Lomax-ABFS, pp. 504-507, "The Flying Cloud" (1 text, 1 tune)
  22. Botkin-AmFolklr, pp. 845-847, "The Flying Cloud" (1 text, 1 tune)
  23. Darling-NAS, pp. 98-100, "The Flying Cloud" (1 text)
  24. DT 409, FLYCLOUD*
  25. Roud #1802
  26. BI, LK28


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1894 (Wehman)
Found in: US(MA,MW,NE,So) Canada(Mar,Newf,Ont)