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Maid on the Shore


This is one of many songs in the folk repertoire where a comely lass bewitches some hapless chaps and ends up outwitting them all. In some songs, this seems slightly less than sporting, but, given that, in this song, the captain and crew were planning to rape her ("First you will lie in my arms all this night then I'll hand you right back to me crew, crew crew"), nicking all their silver and gold and taking the captain's sword (make of that what you will, Sigmund) seems the least that they deserve.

In some versions of this song the girl is a mermaid or a siren, which reinforces the supernatural element of the story; and leads to a more gory conclusion where the captain and crew are devoured, rather than just robbed.

The song is a staple of the folk repertoire and has been done, in various versions, by many, many folkies. These are the best versions I have found on YouTube:

This astonishingly pure a capella version by Peggy Seeger is beautiful (this is a video of an entire compilation by her - well worth listening to, for her banjo playing, her extraordinary voice and the fact she's inventing Americana before most of the members of Wilco were even born).

I have searched for an alternative genre take on the song, but couldn't find a punk, funk, or reggae version, I'm afraid. In lieu of a rock version, this is The Once (Canadian folk band) giving the song a bit more welly than the average folkie - we'll forgive them the use of a bodhran just this once (bodhran jokes here).

Back to the repertoire list...