From the recording Wild And Wicked Youth
Mark Clavey: vocals, guitar
Mary Hanover: lead vocals, hammered dulcimer
Rachel Gaither: vocals, fiddle
Here is a song once very popular in Britain, Ireland, and Wales. The "Lester S Levy Collection of Sheet Music" contains the song, and credits William Florence for composing both the lyrics and music in, or before, 1859. It appeared in a handful of songsters and collections published between 1860 and 1926, and was eventually published in Colm O'Lochlainn's "Irish Street Songs" in 1965. This last appearance was the source of Steeleye Span's excellent arrangement of the song for their 1970 debut-album "Hark the Village Wait". Anne Geddes Gilchrist wrote "My sailor friend, Mr. Bolton, says that “My Johnny was a Shoemaker” was a well-known forecastle song when he was at sea". (William Bolton, sailor and shantyman, was at sea, on and off, between 1852 and about 1888.) She went on to note a remarkably similar tune for a Welsh Calvinist hymn, "Caernarvon" (1897), which suggests that Mr Florence's tune, if not adapted from a traditional melody, was a popular source for other such adaptations. Mark and Mary first learned this song from the singing of Lolly Foy and Betsy Smith. The closing tune, "Toss the Feathers", is the tune we've chosen to complement the song. It's a fairly well-known Co. Clare reel that has seen its share of publishings and recordings. Oh, and the title IS a euphemism.
My Johnny was a shoemaker, and dearly he loved me. My Johnny was a shoemaker, but now he's gone to sea. With pitch and tar to soil his hands, and to sail across the sea, stormy sea--and to sail across the stormy sea.
His jacket was a deep sky blue, and curly was his hair. His jacket was a deep sky blue, it was, I do declare. To reive the topsail up against the mast, and to sail across the sea, stormy sea--and to sail across the stormy sea.
Someday he'll be a captain bold with a brave and gallant crew. Someday he'll be a captain bold with a sword and spyglass too. And when he has his gallant captain's sword, he'll come home and marry me, marry me. He'll come home again and marry me.