Robbins, Charles


Collection date: Oct 1908

Area: London

Charles Robbins at Marylebone workhouse (1844-?): age 65, 14 sea shanties over several visits commencing 23 Oct 1908: Sharp published Robbins’ version of ‘Sally Brown’ in his ‘English Folk-Chanteys’ book (1914). In the Journal of the Folk-Song Society 5 (1914) Sharp submitted 6 of Robbins’ shanties - ‘Santy Anna’, ‘Ranzo’, ‘Sally Brown’, ‘The Black Ball Line’, ‘Haul away, Joe’ and ‘The Bullgine’. He accurately noted Robbins’ biographical details on FT1985 (‘Ranzo’).

Charles John Robbins was born on 9/5/1844 at Adam & Eve court, Oxford Street and baptised a year later at Marylebone All Souls on 10/8/1845. He was the 5th of 7 children of Thomas Robbins, a cabinet maker and french polisher, and his wife Mary Ann. In 1871 census Charles was with his widowed mother in Saville Street, Marylebone. She was 60, a charwoman, and he was 26 a marine.

Sharp’s notes explain: ‘(Charles) was 33 years at sea and went all over the world. He spent a long time in the Indian Navy chasing Persian sheiks… He said when lying in harbour at Bombay men would lie down on the forecastle and sing a song in chorus. This was assumed by the next ship and then the next one all round the harbour … Shanties sound very nice on the water.’ It’s not known when Charles died.

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