Note: Sorry for the messed up formating in the songs here, which appeared when I tried to post to this site. The songs ought to appear with four line verses, then a space before the next verse, but the site eats the verse gaps, and inserts a line break between each line. It makes the whole thing rather unreadable, so I almost didn't post this appendix at all, but it seems to shame to miss it out.


Famed in Song and Story: a Hero of Reknown

A short overview of the folk tradition surrounding John Sheppard and his crew

The figure of Captain Sheppard appears to have captured the English imagination. There are a dozen extant examples of broadside ballads, the earliest bearing a date of 1748 and the imprint of Mr Reeves, a part-time printer and apothecary from Cheltenham. Cecil Sharp collected over a dozen versions in 1908-9, most of them showing only minor variations from the printed versions. The version reproduced here is dated 1754. The confusion in narrative voice is typical of the time.

Bold Sheppard

Come all ye lads who plough the seas, come listen to my song -

It is a stirring ditty, and it won't detain you long.

It is a tale of piracy, upon the raging Main –

A tale of lies and loyalty, in good King George's reign.

I was brought up in Boston, John Sheppard is my name,

But as a son of Neptune, I lately earned my fame.

I listed in the Navy and I boldly went to sea,

And served my Queen with honour – 'twere none so brave as he.

But one there was upon his ship, a traitor to the crown.

"I plan to fell this hero bold; I envy his renown!"

Why evil filled this traitor's heart, I cannot know or tell;

His name is writ in water and his soul will burn in Hell.

Through the traitor's wicked lies, this hero lost his name.

His wrists were bound in iron bands, his feet in fetters twain,

But Sheppard called a little bird: "Oh fly and find my crew

For some there are – just one, just two – who know that I am true."

They came for him in dead of night and freed him from his chains,

They did so out of loyalty, and not through hope of gain.

Not one, not two, not three of them, but fully twenty-nine,

They willingly turned outlaw, upon the storm-tossed brine.

So I was forced to piracy upon that raging Main,

Like Robin Hood upon the deep, I robbed the lords of Spain,

(But honest sturdy English folk, I let them sail on by.)

My name became a bitter curse; my mother wept and sighed.

My ship was called Atlantis, a noble brigantine.

The crew who served upon that ship were loyal, brave and fine.

For seven years and many leagues, we sailed upon the sea,

But oh! my heart was weary, for the traitor still walked free.

But at the end of seven years, this hero's race was run.

"Alas! Alas!" his men all cried, "Our captain is undone!"

But then upon the deck he cast the proof that cleared his name,

And so once more John Sheppard gained his honour and his fame.

So here's to Captain Sheppard as he sails upon the sea!

And cursed be all traitors, wherever they may be!

And here's to Captain Sheppard's crew, so loyal, stout and bold!

And here's to all true Englishmen – and now my story's told.

Teyla Emmagen was also immortalised in song. Hers appears to have been one of the earliest examples of the family of songs that tell of women who dress themselves up in man's array in order to enlist or go to sea. (c.f. The Female Drummer Boy, High Germany, The Handsome Cabin Boy etc.) The example reproduced here is an oddity. It was collected by Percy Grainger in 1907, from "Daddy" Wiggins in Burford workhouse, but while most songs of this type rejoice in the daring of the female protagonist, the last two verses of this version tell a different tale. Grainger conjectured that some well-meaning vicar had clumsily replaced the existing verses with lines that better reflected the sort of lesson he wished his parishioners to learn. Although our anonymous scribe has clearly attempted to follow the conventions of folk song, the difference of style and message is very clear.

It's of a pretty female, as you shall understand,

Her mind was set for roving into some foreign land.

She dressed herself in man's array, as you will shortly see,

And left her home and family, resolved to go to sea.

A man attired in captain's clothes was walking on the strand.

She signed with him for seven years and left her native land.

He was a pirate brave and bold, a man of deadly fame;

His name it was John Sheppard, and Tailor (sic) was her name.

Her hand was long and slender, and her cheek was dusky gold,

Her waist was small, her hair was long, or so I have been told.

The crew all sighed and rolled their eyes, and cried aloud in joy:

"What a pretty lad he is, this handsome cabin boy!"

In battle she was fearless – an Amazon was she!

She bent her back to oar and rope, and ploughed the raging sea.

"No boy am I!" at last she said, grown weary of her lie.

"I always knew you were a lass," bold Sheppard made reply.

And soon her skin grew tough and coarse; she learnt to curse and swear.

She slept beside a hundred men! Men's breeches she did wear!

No husband now will have her; she will never be a wife.

She refused her female duty, and threw away her life.

So all you foolish headstrong maids, a warning take from me.

If you would put on man's attire and roam the raging sea,

Remember that a maiden should be modest, meek and mild,

And marry where her parents wish, and bear her man a child.

No songs survive about Ronon Dex. His name, however, appears to have become a byword for strength. Francis Griffin, pastor of Cerne Abbas, wrote in a letter of 1876:

"My son is strong as a Ronon, and as bold, too." Thus boasted Mrs Ward, doughty mistress of the belaying pin, as I overheard her from behind a hedge. After lecturing her on the sin on pride, I could not refrain from asking who this Ronon was, not remembering him in the Bible or the pages of the heathen Greeks. She mumbled something about some famous pirate. "Something to do with Captain Sheppard, I do believe, him as we hear tell of in old Gaffer Watkins' party piece, when he has some ale in him. You should have heard him sing it at the Whitsun Wakes in '63 – or was it '64? – proper stirring, it was." I told her sternly that it did not do to call on pirates' names in one's similes, and instructed her to use the name of Samson in future."

Despite the disapproval of hectoring parsons, the saying lived on. The Opies, researching for their seminal book on children's playground law in the late 1950s, recorded "as strong as Ronon" in several schools in Dorset, and in one school in Warwickshire, children vied with each other to "be the Ronon" in one particularly rough game.

The name of Rodney McKay does not survive in folk tradition. Alexander Pope, however, penned this epigram in 1720:

"Here stand I, the name's McKay

A man with far too much to say."

Needless to say, this is not up to Pope's usual standard.


Author's notes:

Don't forget that this story comes complete with illustrations. You can read the story and see the pictures in a single file on my website (3 w's dot rhymer dot org dot uk –then follow the obvious links) or can find it parts on my LJ (rhymer23).

The idea came half from some lovely talk about Pirate Shep on the Gateworld Shepwhumping thread, and part from the "slavery, captivity or hostages (AU)" prompt on the gen ficathon, which was opened up for bonus stories after the main ficathon had ended.

I had a whale of a time writing this story. I'd write in lunch breaks. I'd scurry home from work, write non-stop until bedtime, lie awake writing in my head, then get up at dawn and write for a few more hours before work. I wrote the whole thing in eight days flat, and loved every moment of it. I hope you enjoyed reading it!