A Brief History of Sea Shanties

As sailing enthusiasts, we’re no strangers to a sturdy ship and the rolling ocean beneath our feet. From peering into the depths of the ocean to delivering you with myths and legends of the deep, we’ve spoken a lot about the sea, but what about the lives of those aboard the ancient tall ships? What about the songs that made their journeys that much more enjoyable?

Life Aboard the Tall Ships

As you can imagine, life aboard the ancient tall ships wasn’t the easiest. Travelling vast distances with nothing but your muscle- and the muscle of your shipmates- to help make sure the ship was in tip top condition was tiring. A lot of the jobs taken by the crew were gruelling and repetitive. Making sure all tasks were met took team work and communication and no short amount of encouragement.

Keeping the spirits of the sailors high, especially when the weather made life all the harder, was the shantyman.

The Purpose of the Sea Shanty

Surfacing in the fifteenth century and making its way through to the twentieth, sea shanties have faded out of fashion over the past century- their purpose diminishing thanks to the advances in technology.

Originally shanties were work songs, sung by sailors who worked long, hard, repetitive jobs to the rhythm of the shanty. Matching their pace and movements with the rhythm of the song allowed sailors to synchronise their movements, making jobs run smoother. Most shanty songs have a call and response structure led by the infamous shantyman. The shantyman sang the lines of the shanty while the sailors called back with the chorus.

Modern Day Shanties

Today the purpose of the sea shanty has no place aboard ships, with technology and the heavier jobs being left to a machine, sailors don’t need to work to the pace of the shanty songs. However, shanties have taken on a different roll aboard both ships and on the land; they’re used as a means of socialising.

In the days of old, sea shanties were only sung aboard ships, alleviating the sailor’s spirits when the work became particularly hard. Today sea shanties are sung both aboard ships as entertainment and on land and are often mistaken for folk songs.

While singing sea shanties aboard your ship may not make  some jobs any easier, our reliable supplies are at hand to help you complete your tasks. Contact us today on 01524 862010 and we’ll help you make sure your ship is in tip top condition with our marine cleaning products for wherever you’re sailing to.