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Broadsheet featuring the ballads 'The Seaman's Life' and 'The Jolly Roving Tar'.

Date: 1845 - 1849
Overall: 249 x 193 mm, 0.022 kg
Medium: Woodcut engraving and printed text on paper mounted on card.
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Broadsheet
Object No: 00017397
Place Manufactured:London

User Terms

    Broadsheet featuring the ballads 'The Seaman's Life' and 'The Jolly Roving Tar'.
    'The Jolly Roving Tar" is a traditional Newfoundland folk song. The song relates the story of Susan, lamenting the wanderings of her beloved "tar", or sailor, William, who is at sea, and deciding to follow him in one of her father's boat. Some lines and locations vary in different ersions ofthe ballad, but the story is the same.
    'The Seaman's Life' was a popular ballad and first appeared in London in the 1840s. It describes the romance of the sea and the attraction to a life of a sailor.

    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.

    It was in London City, and near to the highway,
    I overheard a pretty maid, as I along did stray,
    She did appear like Venus, or some sweet, lovely star,
    As she walked the beach, lamenting for her jolly, roving tar.

    Oh, William, gallant William, how can you sail away,
    I have arrived at twenty-one, I am a lady gay,
    I'll man one of my father's ships and face the Chinese war,
    And cross the briny ocean for my jolly, roving tar.

    Young William looked so manly, dressed in his sailor's clothes,
    His cheeks are like two roses his eyes as black as sloes,
    His hair hung down in ringlets, but now he is gone afar,
    And my heart lays in the bosom of my jolly, roving Tar.

    It's many pleasent evenings my lad and I did pass,
    With many a jolly sailor gay and many a bonny lass,
    The harp was sweetly played, likewise the wild guitar,
    I went hand and hand together with my jolly roving tar.

    Come all you jolly sailors, and push the boat from shore,
    That I may view my father's ship, to find she is secure,
    Provision you'll have plenty, and lots of grog in store,
    Give chase, my jolly sailors, for my jolly, roving tar."

    She quickly jump'd into the boat, and boldly left the land,
    And as the sailors row'd, she wav'd her hand,
    "Farewell, you girls of London, I fear no wound or scar."
    And away went pretty Susan for her jolly, roving tar.


    A seaman's life is a life I love, / And one I'll live and die, / With the sea below and the sky above, / And the billows mountains high. / I love to hear the breakers dash, / And wild winds roar around, / The thunder roll and the ligtening flash, / And the sea-bird's welcome sound,


    Then Hurrah for the deep, the briny deep, / The boundles, glorious sea, / In a calm or in a storm, in every form / A seaman's life for me,

    Some may boast of the grand distant land, / And the joys of a peaceful home, / I envy not their chosen lot, / Oh give me the crested foam; / The gondolier in his boat may steer / O'er the rippling moonlight wave, / I laugh at his joys, here's a toast my boys, / May the sea be our welcome grave.

    When I first left my father's home, / No joys it had for me, / Long'd to lead a sailor's life / Amidst the bold and free; / My heart was light, the sea was bright, / When I joined the gallant crew, / The anchor weigh'd, the sails unfurl'd, / To my friends I bid adieu.

    Sometimes when in the midnight watch, / Upon the boundless sea, / In foreign climes I thought of her, / Who a mother was to me; / I love her still, and ever will, / When years, perhaps, are gone / I shall return to my native shore, / But the sea shall be my home.

    I love to see the waves to dash, / And to hear the boatswain's call, / All hands reef top-sails, be quick my lads, / For the storm is coming on; / With the gallant crew up aloft I fly, / While the sea is sparkling bright, / I'm a merry laughing sailor boy / And the sea is my delight.

    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.
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