Be Handy (The Treadmill)

From John Harris, South Wales and Paddy Gaul, Waterford, Ireland

Sources: The James Madison Carpenter Collection AFC 1972/001 MS pp. 00114 (Gaul song text), 09126 (Gaul music notation), 00115- 00116 (Harris song text) and 09126 Harris music notation)

Most of the verses are from Harris’ singing, except verse 6 from Paddy Gaul and the last which I supplied.

  1. Oh come all you sailors and as you draw near
    Attention give to my song I pray sir
    I’m going to begin with a free good will
    For to tell you the news of our treadmill.Chorus.
    Singing tau-rau-rau, lay along now
    Be handy, boys, be handy now.
  2. Oh from Liverpool town we set sail, sir
    With a sweet and pleasant gale, sir
    Oh we set sail from Liverpool town
    To St. John’s, New Brunswick we were bound
  3. Oh our ship was called the Burton Head
    Every day they weighed our pound of bread, sir
    Oh our captain’s name was Bully Brown
    If you growled at that he’d knock you down.
  4. Our chief mate’s name was Dicky Greene
    He was the dirtiest old (son of a gun/pirate) you’d ever seen
    He would walk the deck in his white straw hat
    And think of himself no dirt in that.
  5. Oh as true as I am a living sinner
    Murphys we got none for dinner
    Oh the bread was as hard as any tin
    And the beef was as salt as Lot’s wife’s chin.
  6. After boxing us around all day
    It’s, ‘Lay aloft’ and we’d reef away
    And when we’d come down from aloft
    It’s, ‘Man the pumps now’ he would scoff.
  7. So sailors all who hear my tale
    On the Burton Head don’t ever sail
    Hard word, bad grub you’ll get your fill
    They’ll work you to death on that treadmill.
Lyrics from the recording: