On Board a Ninety-Eight
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

This song was printed on broadsides in both England and Ireland in the early and late 1800s. Printers included J. Catnach of London, who printed it sometime between 1813 and 1838. Copies of these can be found at the Broadside Ballads Online.

This version was collected by Vaughan Williams in 1905 in Norfolk and appeared in The Journal of the Folk Song Society in 1906.

When I was young and scarce eighteen,
I drove a roaring trade;
And many a sly trick I have played
On many a pretty maid.
My parents found that would not do,
I soon would spend their store,
So they resolv'd that I should go
On board a Man-of-War.

A bold pressgang surrounded me,
Their warrant they did show,
And swore that I should go to sea,
And face the daring foe.
So off they lugged me to the boat.
O how I cursed my fate,
'Twas then I found that I must float
On board a Ninety-Eight.

When first I put my foot on board,
How I began to stare,
Our Admiral he gave the word,
'There is no time to spare!'
They weighed their anchor, shook out sail,
And off they bore me straight,
To watch the foe in storm and gale,
On board a Ninety-Eight.

Now as time fled I bolder grew,
And hardened was to war;
I'd run aloft with my ship's crew,
And valued not a scar.
So well I did my duty do,
Till I got boatswain's mate,
And damme, soon got boatswain too
On board a Ninety-Eight.

So years rolled by, at Trafalgar
Brave Nelson fought and fell;
As they capsized that hardy tar
I caught a rap as well.
To Greenwich College I came back,
Because I saved my pate;
They only knocked a wing off Jack
On board a Ninety-Eight.

So now my cocoa I can take,
My pouch with 'bacca stored;
With my blue clothes and three-cocked hat
I'm happy as a lord.
I've done my duty, served my king,
And now I bless my fate,
But damme, I'm too old to sing,
I'm nearly ninety -eight.

Related Links
From English County Folk Songs
See Bibliography for full information.
Some information from Steve Roud's Broadside and Folksong Indexes.