1. noun: a seller of ballads, esp on broadsheets.
2. Noun: a writer of mediocre poetry.
I first heard this song while hanging around a campfire at Interlocken International Camp (now called Windsor Mountain Camp) in Windsor New Hampshire. It was sung by Richard Herman with a whole panoply of campers and counselors singing along to this somewhat obscure ballad they obviously knew and loved and shared. The song has a haunting quality that does an excellent job of telling a story between the lines.
History & Synopsis
Cyril Tawney sang The Last Boat's A-Leaving in a recording made by Peter Kennedy at Cecil Sharp House, London, on the 1960 HMV album Rocket Along: New Ballads on Old Lines.
He recorded it again in 1966 as The Ballad of Sammy's Bar for the Elektra album A Cold Wind Blows, in 1972 for his Argo LP In Port. It is also on his Neptune cassette Sally Free and Easy (1989, reissued in 2003 on his Ada CD Navy Cuts).
He also sang Sammy's Bar live at the Holsteins folk club in Chicago on May 31, 1981. This concert was published in 2007 on his CD Live at Holsteins.
Cyril Tawney wrote on his now defunct own website about his song:
Back in the early 50s two young amateur film makers, I can't remember their names, decided to make a short documentary about sailing on the Norfolk Broads. They called it Ha'penny Breeze. The only thing the film lacked was music, but instead of simply dubbing some out-of-copyright recorded piece on to the soundtrack, they had the temerity to approach the man who was probably the leading writer of film music in Britain at the time, Philip Green, and ask him if he could write and record something original, but of course for very little reimbursement. Their cheek paid off, and Phil Green wrote a charming piece called after the film title Ha'penny Breeze. His generosity was rewarded in a way, because the recording got plenty of broadcasts, and that was how I came to hear it. I immediately went out and bought the record. The theme itself was played on a solo concertina. Years later I was to discover that the concertina was played by the renowned Alf Edwards, who became a broadcasting colleague of mine in the 60s and 70s. There's a general atmosphere of Shenandoahabout Ha'penny Breeze, and both pieces were very much in my mind when I came to write Sammy's Bar in 1958. The full original title, by the way, was The Ballad of Sammy's Bar, though in EFDSS circles it is known to this day as The Last Boat's A-Leaving, which was never my title.