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Broadsheet featuring the ballads 'Jolly Waterman', 'Heaving the Lead' and 'The Nancy'.

Date: 1802 - 1844
Overall: 258 x 192 mm, 0.023 kg
Medium: Woodcut engraving and printed text on paper mounted on card.
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Broadsheet
Object No: 00017383
Place Manufactured:London

User Terms

    A broadsheet printed by Pitts, Printer, wholesale Toy and Marble warehouse. The sheet feature three ballads: 'Jolly Waterman', 'Heaving the Lead' and 'The Nancy'.
    SignificanceBroadsheets were designed as printed ephemera to be published and distributed rapidly. This also meant they were quickly disposed of with many of them not surviving the test of time. The museum's broadsheet collection is therefore a rare and valuable example of how maritime history was communicated to a wide audience, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries. They vibrantly illustrate many of the themes and myths surrounding life at sea. Some of them also detail stories about transportation and migration. Here is not a world of high-art but the rowdy life of the streets of Georgian and Victorian London. Being ephemera, the survival rate is poor.

    AND did you not hear of a jolly young waterman,
    Who at Blackfriar's bridge used to ply.
    Who feather'd his oars with such skill and dexterity,
    Winning each heart and delighting each eye.
    He looked so neat and he rowed so steadily,
    The ladies all flock'd to his boat so readily,
    And he ey'd the young rogues with so charming an air,
    That this waterman ne'er was in want of a fare.
    What freights of fine folks he row'd in his wherry
    'Twas clean'd out so nice and new painted all,
    He was always first oars when the fine city ladies,
    In a party to Ranelagh went or Vauxhall.
    And of times they would gibbing and jeering,
    For loving or liking he little did care,
    For this waterman ne'er was in want of a fare.
    And yet to see how strangely things happen
    As he rowed along thinking nothing at all,
    He was spy'd by a damsel so lovely and charming,
    That she smil'd and so straightway in love he did fall.
    And would this young damsel but banish her sorrow
    He'd wed her to night before to morrow,
    And how should this waterman e'er know care,
    When he's married and never in want of a fare.


    MAYHAP you've heard that as dear as our lives,
    All true-hearted tars love their ships and their wives,
    To their duty like pitch, sticking close till they die,
    And who'er wants to know I'll tll them why,
    One thro' dangers and storms brings me safely on shore,
    'Tother welcomes me home, when my danger's o'er,
    Both smoothens the ups and the downs of this life,
    For the ship's call'd Nancy, and Nancy's my wife.

    When Nancy my wife o'er the lawn scuds so neat,
    And so light the proud grass scarce yield to her feet,
    So rigg'd and so lovely 'tis not easy to trace,
    Which is reddest her top-knot, her shoes or her face;
    While the neighbours to see her forgot all their cares,
    And are pleas'd that she's mine, tho' they wished she was theirs,
    Marvel not then to think of the joys of my life,
    I my ship call the Nancy for Nancy's my wife.

    As for the Nancy my vessel but see her in trim,
    She seems thro' the ocean to fly and not swim,
    'For the wind like a dolphin she skims rough seas,
    With her top gallant sails tho' she looks best in stays,
    Scuding, trying, or tacking, 'tis all one to she,
    Mounting high or low sunk in the trough of the sea,
    She has sav'd me in many a hard squeaks for my life,
    So I call her the Nancy cause Nancy's my wife.

    Then so sweet in the dance careles glides my hearts queen,
    She sets out and sets in far the fairest of the green,
    So of all the grand fleet my gay vessel's the flower
    She outsails the whole fleet by a knot and an hour,
    Then they both sail so cheerful thro' life's varying breeze,
    All hearts with such pilots must be at their ease,
    Thus I've two kind protectors to watch me thro' life,
    My good ship the Nancy and Nancy my wife.

    These hands from protecting them who shall debar,
    N'er ingratitude lurk'd in the heart of a tar,
    Why every thing female from peril to save,
    Is the noblest distinction that honours the brave,
    While a rag, or a timber, or a compass they boast;
    I'll protect the dear creatures against a whole host.
    Still grateful to both to the end of my lie,
    My good ship the Nancy and Nancy my wife.


    FOR England when with a favouring gale
    Our gallant ship up channel steer'd
    And scudding under easy sail,
    The high blew western land appear'd
    To heave the lead the seamen sprung,
    And to the pilot cheerly sung. By the deep nine.
    And bearing up to the gain the port,
    Some well known object kept in view
    An abbey tower or harbour fort,
    Or beacon to the vessel true,
    While off the lead the seamen flung,
    And to the pilot cheerily sung. By the mark seven
    And as the much lov'd shore we're near,
    With transport we beheld the roof,
    Where dwells a friend or partner dear,
    Of faith and love a matchless proof,
    The lead once more the seaman flung,
    Unto the pilot cheerly sung. Quater less five.
    Now to the birth the ship drawers nigh,
    We take in sail she reels the tide
    Stand clear the cable is the cry
    The anchor is gone -------- we safely ride,
    The watch is set, and thro' the night
    We hear the seamen with delight. Proclaim-all's-well.

    Broadsheets or broadsides, as they were also known, were originally used to communicate official or royal decrees. They were printed on one side of paper and became a popular medium of communication between the 16th and 19th centuries in Europe, particularly Britain. They were able to be printed quickly and cheaply and were widely distributed in public spaces including churches, taverns and town squares.

    The cheap nature of the broadside and its wide accessibility meant that its intended audience were often literate individuals but from varying social standings. The illiterate may have also had access to this literature as many of the ballads were designed to be read aloud.

    The ballads also covered a wide range of subject matter such as witchcraft, epic war battles, murder and maritime themes and events. They were suitably dramatic and often entertaining, but occasionally they were designed as elaborate cautionary tales for those contemplating a life of crime.

    The broadside ballads in the museum's collection were issued by a range of London printers and publishers for sale on the streets by hawkers. They convey, often comically, stories about love, death, shipwrecks, convicts and pirates. Each ballad communicates a sense that these stories were designed to be read aloud for all to enjoy, whether it was at the local tavern or a private residence.
    Related People
    Printer: John Pitts

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