Ben Backstay
Version 1
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Lesley Nelson-Burns


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Lyrics
This English tune was written by Charles Dibdin (1740-1814). It appeared in The Oddities which was performed at The Lyceum in 1789. The song in The Oddities was an earlier version of Ben Backstay (2), a tragic romance rather than a comedic shanty. This version appeared in The Universal Songster in 1826.

Charles Dibdin was the eighteenth son of a poor silvermaker. He was born in Southampton in 1740 and died in London in 1814. In 1778 he became resident composer at Covent Garden. In 1803 the British government paid him to write a series of songs to "keep alive the national feelings against the French." (1)

Dibdin's songs were said to be worth ten thousand sailors to the cause of England. His songs were also popular in Canada and America before and during the American Revolution and during the War of 1812.

For other tunes by Charles Dibdin at this site, enter Charles Dibdin in the search engine or see The Contemplator's Short Biography of Charles Dibdin.

Ben Backstay was a bos'n
He was a jolly boy,
And none as he so merrily
Could pipe all hands ahoy;
Could pipe all hands ahoy;
Could pipe all hands ahoy.
With a chip, chop! cherry chop!
Fol de rol, riddle-rop!
Chip, chop! cherry chop!
Fol de rol ray!
With a chip, chop! cherry chop!
Fol de rol, riddle-rop!
Chip, chop! cherry chop!
Fol de rol ray!


Once sailing with a captain,
Who was a jolly dog,
Our Ben and all his messmates got
A double share of grog;
A double share of grog;
A double share of grog.
With a chip, chop! cherry chop!
Fol de rol, riddle-rop!
Chip, chop! cherry chop!
Fol de rol ray!
With a chip, chop! cherry chop!
Fol de rol, riddle-rop!
Chip, chop! cherry chop!
Fol de rol ray!


So Benny he got tipsy.
Quite to his heart's content,
And leaning o'er the starboard side
Right overboard he went;
Right overboard he went;
Right overboard he went.
With a chip, chop! cherry chop!
Fol de rol, riddle-rop!
Chip, chop! cherry chop!
Fol de rol ray!
With a chip, chop! cherry chop!
Fol de rol, riddle-rop!
Chip, chop! cherry chop!
Fol de rol ray!


A shark was on the starboard side
And sharks no man can stand,
For they do gobble up everything
Just like the sharks on land;
Just like the sharks on land;
Just like the sharks on land.
With a chip, chop! cherry chop!
Fol de rol, riddle-rop!
Chip, chop! cherry chop!
Fol de rol ray!
With a chip, chop! cherry chop!
Fol de rol, riddle-rop!
Chip, chop! cherry chop!
Fol de rol ray!


They threw hint out some tackling
To give his life a hope
But as the shark bit off his head
He couldn't see the rope;
He couldn't see the rope;
He couldn't see the rope.
With a chip, chop! cherry chop!
Fol de rol, riddle-rop!
Chip, chop! cherry chop!
Fol de rol ray!
With a chip, chop! cherry chop!
Fol de rol, riddle-rop!
Chip, chop! cherry chop!
Fol de rol ray!


At twelve o'clock his ghost appeared
Upon the quarter decks
"Ho, pipe all hands ahoy" it cried,
"From me a warning take;"
"From me a warning take;"
"From me a warning take."
With a chip, chop! cherry chop!
Fol de rol, riddle-rop!
Chip, chop! cherry chop!
Fol de rol ray!
With a chip, chop! cherry chop!
Fol de rol, riddle-rop!
Chip, chop! cherry chop!
Fol de rol ray!


"Through drinking grog I lost my life,
The same fate you may meet
So never mix your grog too strong,
But always take it neat!"
But always take it neat!"
But always take it neat!"
With a chip, chop! cherry chop!
Fol de rol, riddle-rop!
Chip, chop! cherry chop!
Fol de rol ray!
With a chip, chop! cherry chop!
Fol de rol, riddle-rop!
Chip, chop! cherry chop!
Fol de rol ray!


Related Links
From The Scottish Student's Songbook
The Songs of Charles Dibdin and
(1)The National Music of America and Its Sources
See Bibliography for full information.