Hole, Captain John

Collection date: Jun 1914

Area: Somerset - West


Capt John Hole (1851-?): age 63, 3 sea shanty songs* on 3 June 1914: John Hole was baptised on 25/1/1851 at St Decuman’s church Watchet, eldest son of Robert Hole, sailor and his wife Ellen. He married Mary Ann Norman at St Decuman’s on 13/5/1876. John was already a sailor and she was the daughter of John Norman, labourer. They had 7 children and John was away at sea for both 1891 and 1901 censuses at Watchet. The 1901 census (RG13/2263 f54b p9) suggests that Mary Ann was deaf. In the 1911 census John was listed as a ‘master mariner merchant service’, aged 58, living at 10 Portland Terrace Watchet with Mary Ann his wife, 56 and 2 daughters Marjorie, 23, a paper bag overlooker and May Blanche, 18 domestic duties. It is not known when Capt Hole died.

*1. ‘What shall we do with a drunken sailor?’ The song (Roud 322) was first noted in 1839 but not published in song form until 1891 (Davis & Tozer ‘Sailor Songs’ 3rd ed.) Sharp first heard it from Capt Hole in June 1914 (FT2953), then heard it from George Conway and George Humphreys in London and James Tucker in Bristol later in the year. Sharp published Tucker’s version as a Capstan shanty in his English Folk Chanteys book 1914 p8 and then in the Novello School Songs Book 263 (1919).

2. ‘I sell brooms’: A (spoken) pulling shanty. Not published.

3. ‘Noah’s Ark’ (aka ‘In ‘Frisco Bay’) Roud 318: Again this was the first time Sharp had heard this shanty and he published Hole’s version in Folk Chanteys 1914 p59 and Novello School Songs Book 262 p12.

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