Hanging Johnny
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Lesley Nelson-Burns


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Lyrics
This was one of the best and most popular halyard shanties. Additional verses, hanging anyone that came to mind, would be added to last as long as the job took.

There is speculation that "Hanging Johnny" may refer to the eighteenth century hangman, Jack Ketch. In fact "Jack Ketch" was a term used to refer to all hangman, named after a Jack Ketch who was the executioner at Tyburn from 1663-1686.

According to Army Life in a Black Regiment by Thomas Higginson, the shanty was also sung by African-American soldiers in the Civil war who were recruited from the sea islands of the Carolina coast. They added additional verses dealing with their enlistment in the army.

They call me hanging Johnnie,
Horray, Hooray!
They call me hanging Johnnie,
Hang, boys, hang.

They say I hang for money,
Horray, Hooray!
But saying so is funny;
Hang, boys, hang.

I'd hang the highway robber,
Horray, Hooray!
I'd hang the burglar jobber;
Hang, boys, hang.

I'd hang a noted liar,
Horray, Hooray!
I'd hang a bloated friar;
Hang, boys, hang.

Come hang, come haul together,
Horray, Hooray!
Come hang for finer weather,
Hang, boys, hang.

I'd hang a brutal mother,
Horray, Hooray!
I'd hang her and no other;
Hang, boys, hang.

I'd hang to make things jolly,
Horray, Hooray!
I'd hang all wrong and folly;
Hang, boys, hang.

They call me hanging Johnnie.
Horray, Hooray!
They call me hanging Johnnie,
Hang, boys, hang.

Related Links
From Fifty Sailor's Songs or Chanties and
Shanties from the Seven Seas
See Bibliography for full information.