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Old Billy Riley


A song popular in Green's Blackwall ships sailing from London in the 1850s.
It started life as a cotton hoosiers chant, and is African American in origin.
Later it went to sea and became one of the most popular halyards shanties of the day.
Hugill says: "They used Jackscrews to pack the cotton into the holds of vessels,
to ram them up tight and so get more in the cargo hold. Lots of negroes were used in this labour,
and their chants turned into shanties when the sailors used them for other jobs,
often the tune remained and the words were changed to suit Sailor John.
Negroes formed a large part of the crew of some vessels, and took their chants to sea with them,
and a hell of a lot of white mans shanties had negro origins." According to the dictionary,
a droger is a West Indian coasting vessel, with long masts and lateen sails
(from the Dutch droogen -to dry- originally this was a vessel on which fish were dried.)

Music by - Johnny Collins


Lyrics

Old Billy Riley was a dancing master.
Old Billy Riley, oh. Old Billy Riley!

Old Billy Riley's master of a drogher.
Old Billy Riley, oh. Old Billy Riey!

Master of a drogher bound for Antigua.
Old Billy Riley, oh. Old BQIy Riley!

Old Billy Riley has a nice young daughter.
Old Billy Riley, oh. Old Billy Riley!

Oh Missy Riley, little Missy Riley.
Old Billy Riley, oh. Old Billy Riley!

Had a pretty daughter, but we cant get at her.
Old Billy Riley, oh, Old Billy Riley!

Screw her up and away we go, boys.
Old Billy Riley, oh, Old Billy Riley!

One more pull and then belay, boys
Old Billy Riley, oh, Old Billy Riley!



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