NOTTINGHAM & MARS


October 11, 1746

Broadside ballad - Tune the Dolphin

 

Come all you jolly sea men bold a tough old tar I am
I'll sing to ye of a fight me boys fought in the Nottingham
Twas by a brisk young Captain, Phil Sausmarez was his name
He was bent with bold intent old Englands foes to tame

On the fifth day of October our anchor we did weigh
And from Plymouth sound me boys we shaped our course away
Along the coast of Ireland our orders were to go
The seas to cruise and none to refuse but boldly fight the foe

We had not been out many days before we chanced to spy
A sail all to the westward which drew us up full nigh
She hailed us loud in French me boys and asked from whence we came
From Plymouth Sound we 've just come down and the Nottinghams our
name.

Are you a man of war they said or a privateer maybe
We are a man of war we said and that ye soon shall see
So haul up smart your courses and let your ship lie to
If you stand out or put about we'll sink you ship and crew

The first broadside we let them have we made the rascals quail
To see the gallant topmast come rattling down like hail
We drove them from their quarters their Captain he frantic grew
He cursed our shot that came so hot from the gunners in our crew.

We fought them seven glasses when to add to all their fears
The shout was raised for borders and we gave three ringing cheers
Down came her flag we took her ,her name it was the Mars
The French be damned they never can stand a fight with British Tars

And should you once more enquire our gallant Captains name
He was young Phil Sausmarez from Guernseys isle he came
Commanded the brave Nottingham and beat the cowardly Mars
Let every man stand true to his guns and salute those British Tars

 

I collected this song from Peter De Sausmarez of Sausmarez Manor St. Martins Guernsey. His ancestor, Philip Sausmarez took a leading role in the war of Jenkins Ear. Sausmarez was second in command of the Centurion, the most famous ship of its age in an adventure that rivalled Francis Drakes circumnavigation for daring. The reward for his four years at sea with George Ansonwas command of the Nottingham. The action with the Mars was his one and only successful engagement, only a few weeks after the incident decribed in the song he was killed in an undecisive skirmish off Brest. He is Buried in Southampton.

The song is clearly related to the "Dolphin" group of songs and an altered version of it appears on the Saydisc CD "Sea Songs and Shanties" collected by Peter Kennedy, (which incidently has a full colour picture of the Garthpool on the cover). On the Saydisc album this song is called the Warlike Seaman (or the Irish Captain), but the words make very little sense, in that ballad the ship changes home ports from Spithead to Liverpool and names from Nottinghan to London. However, the captain is called Somerville and this is a very close English approximation of the Guernsey French Sausmarez. There is a version of the Dolphin on one of Tony Capstick's albums on Rubber Records ( Does a Turn ) the last time I saw TC he was acting in Coronation Street ( the Folkies graveyard?).

Back to the song, I would speculate the Guernsey version is nearer to the original than that on Kennedys' recording, although of course the folk process will undoubtedly alter many songs over the years. The Guernsey version was printed as a Victorian parlour piece, the tune was over-arranged but in both lyrical and musical structure it was clearly a cetacean.

I have sent a copy of the words to Peter Kennedy for safe keeping in his archve in Gloucester