Spanish Ladies (New England)
“Spanish Ladies” is a sea chantey.
- Farewell and Adieu
- Talcahuano Girls
- Yankee Whalermen
“Spanish Ladies” is a homeward-bound capstan chantey—used for raising the anchor when returning homeward. One of a family of chanteys, originally, “Spanish Ladies” was a British naval song, lamenting separation from local wives or girlfriends from Gibraltar at the end of the Napoleonic wars. Hugill notes that few sources give it as a proper chantey (as opposed to just a recreational song). The original was a navigational mnemonic for the trip through the English Channel around to the Thames and London; as the song was coöpted by other groups, including New England whalers, the lyrics changed accordingly. Smith, in 1888, seemed unaware of the New England variation.
The melody changes in some variations; the British version, I’ve never heard except with a minor key; the New England version I’ve heard in both minor and major variations, though the Talcahuano Girls version, a close cousin of the Yankee version, is always minor; the Newfoundland version always seems to be in a major key.
Some of the British verses survive into this New England version I recorded. Other verses are common to the more generic whaling versions, but the refrain is based entirely in New Bedford whaling.
I was a little uncertain about this recording. I wanted to have the melody doubled an octave apart, but as it has a moderately wide range in the melody alone, that forced me to the bottom or top of my range for the main lead part. There seems to be a general consensus among the people I’ve asked—including my recording engineer—that it sounds fine down in the basement of my range where it ended up, though you can hear how it sounded before Jim cleaned it up. It’s easy as a singer to hear only the errors and problems… but as I often tell people at chantey sings, there are only two ways to sing sailors’ songs: good, and authentic. I guarantee you, as I guarantee them, that this recording is at least one of those two.
- “Spanish Ladies,” recording by Chris Maden. MusicBrainz.
- Stan Hugill. Shanties from the Seven Seas, pp. 292–294. New U.S. Edition. Mystic, Conn.: Mystic Seaport, 1994.
- Laura Alexandrine Smith. The Music of the Waters, pp. 63–64. London: Kegan Paul, Trench & Co., 1888.
- Chris Maden. “Spanish Ladies,” Kickstarter update. 13 March 2018.