Pared-down version of a ballad in which the captain of a ship fears an enemy vessel nearby. The cabin boy offers to sink the enemy ship in return for a share of the captain's wealth and his daughter's hand in marriage, to which the captain agrees. When the boy swims back to his own ship, the captain breaks his promise and threatens his life.
Lizzie Higgins learned the song from her grandmother when she was very young, and has not sung the song since then.
7 verses of 4 lines. In fuller versions, the cabin boy swims over to the enemy ship and bores a hole in its hull with an auger, causing the ship to sink. In most versions, he threatens to sink his own ship in the same manner if the captain refuses to keep to his promise, causing the captain to relent.
Greig-Duncan vol. 1, pp. 83-86, no. 37
'Traveller's Joy' (M. Yates, 2006) pp. 64-65
'Scottish Studies' 14 (J. Porter & H. Gower, 1970) pp. 55-56; (A. Munro, 1970) pp. 179-181
'Bothy Songs & Ballads' (J. Ord, 1930) pp. 450-451
'Singing Island' (E. MacColl & P. Seeger, 1960) p. 65
'Jeannie Robertson' (J. Porter & H. Gower, 1995) pp. 165-166
'Traditional Ballad Airs' vol. 1 (W. Christie, 1876) pp. 238-239
'Folk-Song of the North-East' (G. Greig, K. Goldstein & A. Argo, 1963 reprint) art. CXVI, CXIX
National Library of Scotland, Broadside Ballad collection, L.C.Fol.70(122a) (Glasgow, 1877), L.C.Fol.70(103b) (Dundee, 1880-1900)