We love a good sea shanty, so we were delighted to welcome our friends The Longest Johns back aboard SS Great Britain last summer in-between lockdowns. Brunel’s great ocean liner combined a steam engine with sails, and we like to think the sailors would have often been singing while they set sail and weighed anchor.
Covid restrictions have been particularly tough for museums, so, while visitors haven’t been able to explore the ship and museums as much as usual, The Longest Johns give a fun glimpse into the cabins, saloons, galleys and decks in their latest music video filmed on board.
Robbie Sattin, one of the four band members, said:
“We were thrilled to find out we could use the SS Great Britain to film for our song Four Hours. All the carefully restored rooms and cabins and the beautiful top deck made it so easy. And of course, the authenticity of knowing you're on a Brunel creation that used to sail around the world is just the cherry on top."
We know there would have been plenty of singing on board during the long voyages. Elizabeth Joseph kept a diary during her 1870 voyage to Australia and comments on the singing: ‘Dear me, what a noise the sailors keep. They are winding up the sails… the wind is against us. All of them sing some sort of song. They are like a lot of birds on the top… The passengers join with them and sing the finest songs you ever heard.’
And we also know the crew would choreograph odd performances to accompany their singing. Passenger, Anna-Maria Georgiana Bright travelled in 1875 and observed: ‘They march round the deck, dressed up with beards of gold etc. and one man rides on a stuffed horse, all singing; the chorus is “So we say” “so we hope” then the man on the horse is hoisted to the end of one of the yards and the horse is cut down and dropped into the sea. (Dickie thought it a pity the man should not be dropped in too).’
In 1863, another passenger noted: ‘All things today much as yesterday, the usual amount of talking and jibing and sailors’ songs which are not the most sensible but greatly amuse the passengers, singing such ditties they haul with a will and haul together. The following is a specimen:
Away, haul away my pretty little Rosey
The Longest Johns filmed a remake of their first ever music video, Haul Away Joe, on the Weather Deck last summer.
The band also headed down into the Dry Dock to film this eye-catching 360-degree video of The Mary Ellen Carter.
With plans to re-open later in May, the SS Great Britain team will be ensuring everything is shipshape. With these catchy sea shanties fresh in the minds, there’s sure to be plenty of humming and singing when the flags are hoisted and the hand sanitiser stations are readied.
Keep up to date on re-opening plans on social media and at ssgreatbritain.org.
With fans around the globe watching their hugely popular music videos, The Longest Johns are ensuring that the SS Great Britain travels the world once again, even during lockdown.