Word on the Wind

Back in the wars of Napoleon
When your rum and your tea were taxed
From the north of Scotland to Saltburn
Came John Andrew and he never went back

He swiftly became a publican
The landlord of the Ship Inn
But that wasn’t the ship he was after
No, he wanted the briggs and the schooners
And their lace and their whiskey and gin

There’s a word on the wind, lads
A word on the wind
A word on the wind from John Andrew
The word on the wind, lads
The word on the wind
The word on the wind is
John Andrew’s cow has calved

He partnered with Tom of Kirkleatham
A brewer by surname a king
Together they purchased a lugger
Morgan Rattler the vessel of sin

They gathered a band of brigands
Rascals the Rattler to crew
Set sail from the beach under Huntcliff
In search of the briggs and the schooners
And their silk and some baccy to chew


To further his reputation
He joined Cleveland’s best Volunteers
And once courting arrest at Majuba
He walked from the courtroom Scot free

Smuggling paid him so handsome
John Andrew bought the White House
He was welcomed into society
For they, like today, know their own and
Corruption’s their ticket to pass


© 2023 JG Songs

I live in the town of Saltburn-by-the-Sea. This town has a fascinating history, but before the town I live in existed (c. mid-19th century), Saltburn consisted simply of a few houses set along the beach under Huntcliff, just across the stream from where I live.

In the mid-18th century, a gentleman by the name of John Andrew migrated here from Scotland and took up residence as the landlord of The Ship which is still a pub today. Over the next few decades, Andrew became the area’s leading smuggler and grew so wealthy that he rose to significant political influence and was able to move into The White House, a large farmhouse which at the time was the largest house of its kind in the area.

In winter 2022, I joined a sea shanty singing group. A couple of us toyed with writing songs for the group and I came up with this song. It’s a folk song so not really a sea shanty, but certainly connected with the sea. Apart from him being a fascinating local character, I was particularly taken by John Andrew because those are in fact my own forenames!

I woke up in the middle of the night with the chorus going round my head. I had to clamber downstairs in the dark and record this first.

First chorus

I then had a go at scatting some verse lines. These didn’t make it into the final melody for the verses.

First attempt at a verse

I thought I might get more inspiration by trying out an alternate tuning. Here’s me messing with the chorus in an open Csus2 tuning. Didn’t really go anywhere though.

Chorus in Csus2 open tuning

I was then seeking inspiration for what the verses would consist of. I wanted to tell the story of John Andrew and so I turned to the Internet, found this page about local history, and basically pillaged it for as much of the story as I could fit in.

Once I had the first line, the story came pretty quickly and gave me the meter for the verse and that generated the rhythm which drives the song. I was still doubling up two lines in the verses though and the chorus was basically the same thing sung twice at this point.

First go at verses with lyrics

And while I was singing this, I came up with a new melody I thought would be good as a bridge.

Bridge melody generation

And with all the material I had off the Internet, the song came together fairly easily. The only slight change I made after I’d played it to our shanty group was to shorten the first “John Andrew” line in the chorus as it was a bit of a mouthful.

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