Most people will have heard
of sea shanties: songs sung by the crews aboard
sailing boats of old.
The rhythm and pace of
these shanties would help sailors to work
together in tasks such as hauling ropes - perhaps
to lower the sails or to raise the anchor. The
words of the songs would reflect the thoughts,
hopes and fears of those journeying towards
unknown perils on the high seas and in far-off
Many people now assume that
shanties have passed into history. There are,
however, modern-day activities during which this
historic tradition continues to be enacted.
One example occurs during
the morning rush hour on commuter trains in
England. Commuter shanties help to maintain the
spirits of those who are leaving their loved-ones
for the uncertainties of a day at the office.
Below can be found the
words and music of a favourite commuter shanty.
This is sung daily in the men-only carriages of
the early morning trains from Winchester to
Londons Waterloo. This popular shanty is
called the Train to Waterloo.
Some commuters take the
role of Shantyman and lead the
singing. Those who bring musical instruments to
accompany the singing need pay no fare for their
Instruments include fiddles,
accordions, guitars, harmonicas, bagpipes and, of
course, didgeridoos. On the Waterloo trains,
there is a custom that ticket collectors play the
accordion and drivers play the guitar. Clearly
drivers can only leave the controls of their
trains for those parts of the journey on when
they are fairly certain that approaching signals
will be set to green.
Sometimes, a driver will
become so preoccupied with playing and singing
that he will forget to return to the controls of
his train in time to stop at a station.
Passengers waiting at Basingstoke and Woking
frequently hear apologetic announcements after
the train they had been expecting to board has
hurtled through the station without slowing. All
view this with good humour, however, as part of
fun of the commuter experience.
A pdf file containing the
words, music and guitar chords for the Train
to Waterloo can be downloaded by clicking
this link: The Train to
The words of the shanty are
also reproduced below.
In addition to the words
and music, we have been very fortunate to obtain
a rare recording of the ticket collector and
driver of the 6.05 am train from Winchester to
Waterloo performing, live on the speeding train,
the music for the Train to Waterloo. In
accordance with tradition, the ticket collector
is playing the accordion and the driver, the
You can download this
recording as an MP3 by clicking here: The Train to
not sing along, now?
This historic recording was,
in fact, fortunately completed just seconds
before the rail disaster.
Train to Waterloo
So fare ye well our
dear loved ones
As we journey so far away, away.
That commuter train to Waterloo
Takes us to earn our pay - boys -
Steals us to earn our pay.
We must network in
some far wine bar,
Our target sales well earn
Afore we once more set our course
Our true love to return - boys -
Our true love to return.
savour a business lunch.
No decent wine well spurn.
Were at the health clubs gym
Who knows when well return - boys -
God knows if well return.
We know when we at
last get home
Our true loves face well see.
Shell say, 'Where the hell have you
Leaving all the childcare to me - boys -
Leaving all childcare to me?
Well say we
go working to bring her cash,
Though the total truth forbids:
The office, wine bar and the health
Are easier than the kids - boys -
Theyre easier than the kids.
Then once we have
been home for several hours,
Booked lunch and a squash court too,
Well pack our laptops, grab a
croissant at the deli
For that train to Waterloo - boys -
That train to Waterloo.