Got something to complain about at work? Then book an appointment to see the boss, pop it in an email or moan to Human Resources. Back in the days of packet ships, clipper ships, and shrinking crews you quickly compiled a shanty and bellowed it out to sea. And remember, well before you could work, or work-out, to a selection of tunes downloaded to your iPhone, you set your pace to the rhythm of the sea shanty.
Life at sea for the crew of the merchant vessel could be long, hard and quite often monotonous. Sea shanties were composed and employed to keep morale and the pace up and get the job done. Shanties weren’t composed for the Atlantic top 100 and it was less about tune and more about boom! If you could reach the top of the rigging or get heard above a ferocious sea chances were you would get the lead as the, ‘Shantyman’.
The, ‘Falmouth Sea Shanty Festival’, employs the shanty to raise money for our RNLI. Funded entirely by charitable donations the RNLI are on call 24 hours a day 365 days a year. They are dragged from their sleeping slumber at all hours and more often than not after a full days work. They miss family days together, school plays, anniversaries and even Christmas dinner all so we can be safe at sea. They can be gone for hours or even days at a time and for not one penny of pay. Sounds like they have something to shanty about!
So this year as you enjoy a shanty or two performed by a choice of 39 groups across twenty venues remember why they are there. Oh and if you see a big red headed maid, who looks a bit like a ships mast head, shaking a bucket, please feel free to throw a few coins in.
…..Oh, one random fact that you may want to throw out there at dinner tonight……
Sea shanties were never used by the Navy, no, Navy sailors followed orders made by the Bosun’s Whistle. When not in work or between orders sailors put their rope and knot skills to good use working at local theaters. It made sense for them to slip into the familiar work rhythm of communicating with whistles. Even after this practice ended it remained tradition NOT to whistle in a theater for fear of finding a prop or curtain dropped on your head!