The Stowaway by Johnny Handle (1992) My name is Hesperus Armitage, Oh! pity my position, I dwelt in sweet suburbia, my Father being a physician; He was a fine bonesetter, with a steel glint in his eyes, But my Mother showed him to the door, for setting ladies’ thighs. So a single parent childhood, a lonely course for me, And my Mother being overbearing, I thought to run away to sea: But the ocean was fifty leagues away, and the canal was barely two, So I stowed away on a narrowboat, a dangerous thing to do. I hid deep in the pointy end, when the crew were in the pub, After three long weeks I was discovered, desperate for grub; I'd eaten ten rolls of greasy rag, and drunk three gallons of oil, So they chained me to the galley, for many years to toil. I wept from peeling onions, and me hands grew red and sore, The skipper enjoyed mallard curries, which made his bowels roar; With tea and old ship's biscuits, the fare was not the best, And after humping bags of coal, down in the bilge I'd rest. Adventure was predominant, upon the watery main, We'd take a load to Gas Street, and go down the cut again; Then piracy erupted, as we transported barrels of beer, As cruel villains boarded us, with gold rings in their ears. ‘Twas hand to hand we fought there, to protect our Burton Ale, And the blood flowed down our quarter deck, which I collected in a pail; “A truce, a truce", they cried, the contrast it was sudden, They signed a peace treaty, as with the blood, I cooked them all Black Pudden. So a barrel was now breached, and we drank "Success to Trade" And I was allowed eleventeen pints, as I'd proved a jovial blade; An end to my long servitude, I had the system beaten, And to celebrate I went to a disco, on the wrong side of Nuneaton. Tune : Flying Cloud I am indebted to Johnny Handle who has taken the time to provide me with printed copies of his canal songs. Johnny has written many songs, mainly about coal mining and his native north-east of England - an area deprived of canals. More details of Johnny Handle's work can be found on his website and Pete Wood has recently (2017) written his biography.
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