“The River Lea”


Capstan shanty. One fine day in May sailor finds himself broke and ships aboard the (River Lea). He spends the rest of the song (and presumably rest of the voyage) singing of all things he won't do any more once this voyage is over.

Supplemental text

River Lea, The
  Partial text(s)

          *** A ***

From Joanna C. Colcord, Songs of American Sailormen (1938 edition),
pp. 181-182. Source not listed.

It was one fine day in the month of May
  and I was outward bound,
I hadn't any tin to buy some gin,
  so I walked the streets all round,
My shoes was out at the elbows,
  and I was sore in need
So I shipped as a jolly sailor
  on board of the River Lea.

No more I'll go to sea,
  beat down the bay of Fundy,
Forevermore I'll stay on shore,
  I'll go to sea no more.

(3 additional stanzas)


Colcord says this was composed by a shantyman named Sam Peck. It obviously bears some relation to "Dixie Brown," though it has no mention of shanghaiing or robbery. Hugill also mentions (though does not corroborate) Colcord's claim, and states that it was quickly pulled into the popular shanty repertoire for use at the capstan. - SL

Cross references


  1. Colcord, pp, 181-182, "The River Lea" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Hugill, pp. 586-589, "The River Lea," "The Anglesey" (2 texts, 2 tunes -- the first being quoted from Colcord) [AbEd, pp. 406-409]
  3. ST Hugi589 (Partial)
  4. Roud #351
  5. BI, Hugi589


Author: Sam Peck ?
Earliest date: 1938 (Colcord)
Keywords: shanty sailor ship
Found in: US Britain