Clive Carey was one of England’s most prominent folk song collectors, observers and performers. His collecting work in Britain is well documented and includes some of the great ballads and lyrical songs of the English tradition. In 2007, whilst searching the Vaughan Williams Library of the English Folk Dance & Songs Society, of which Carey was an illustrious member, I discovered a folio of songs ‘collected by Carey in 1924/5 in South Australia’. These were all sea songs, and shanties in particular. Carey, like Cecil Sharpe, George Butterworth etc, was quite meticulous in his musical notation and accompanying notes and text transcriptions. He wrote everything down in notebooks. What he didn’t write down were particulars about his informants – place of birth, age etc. His Australian informants, George Pattison and Malcolm Forbes, were recorded in South Australia.
Pattison was recorded on Kangaroo Island, which had been settled in 1805 by sealers and whalers (plus some escaped convicts). There were also some Aboriginal women from Tasmania and from the nearby mainland coast who had accompanied them – or had been kidnapped. The sealers were driven from the island by European colonization in the 1830s. Carey’s notes say Pattison was at Cape de Couedie Lighthouse, Kangaroo Island, however he doesn’t explain why. I had assumed Pattison was the lighthouse keeper however a search points to a Mr. Dutchie being Lighthouse keeper at that time.
The shanties recorded from Pattison and Forbes represents the largest collection of sea songs taken down from the oral tradition in Australia. The only other significant collection is that from the shanty man of the Shackleton Expedition (Mitchell Library Collection).
The late Frank Purslow transcribed the Carey Collection for the EFDSS. I am indebted to Peta Webb of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library of the EFDSS for cooperation in accessing the Collection. The photograph of Clive Carey was kindly supplied by the University of Adelaide Archives
Finally, this repertoire is, of course, standard shanty, but in traditional music nothing is ‘standard’. There are several Australian references and the mere fact they were noted from traditional singers gives the collection a particular status. It is very exciting to think that this collection, recorded very early in Australia’s awareness of traditional music, has been sitting on a library shelf for so many decades.
I have retained Carey’s description and any comments in italics to differentiate from my own.
I have provided cross-references for the songs with Stan Hugill’s classic study Shanties & Sailors’ Songs (Herbert Jenkins Ltd. London. 1969) and Capstan Bars David Bone (London 1941)