MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada
The Little Apprentice
Performed by John Power Accession # 78-054 NFLD 1 Tape 4 Track 3
Community: Tors Cove Audio:
Genre: Ballad / evil captain  


Now once I having a little prentice
To tell his name it was Richard Ryan
His father bound him to me apprentice
All for to plow on the raging main

This little boy was young and foolish
And the captain's orders he disobeyed
It was to the maintop gallantmast head they lashed
And they left him there for seven long days

When the seven long days they were past and over
This little boy for mercy loud did cry
May the good God grant me one drop of water
Down from your high and far lofty skies

You shipmates all then take pity on me
And grant to me but one bite to eat
Grant to me but one bare morsel
That lies mouldering in your ship below

The crew they seemed to be very angry
But not one word they dare not say
It was in his cabin they close confound him
Until they arrived at Liverpool quay

Then they applied to the court marshal
'Twas guilty conscience that brought them there
Oh hang ye must for the treacherous murder
For what he done to his prentice dear

To hear the cries of his tender mother
Would rent a heart of heart of stone
To see him torn between four horses
For what he done to his prentice dear


Sources: Also called "Captain James" or "The   Captain's Apprentice." cf. "The Apprentice Boy" on Tommy Nemec. Songs from the Cape (BackCove 2003);   Roud 835.

History: Printed sources date to the 18 th century.

Text notes:The ballad recounts the cruel treatment by a sea captain of the ship's apprentice, abuse that causes the boy's death. The captain is hanged.

Tune notes: A 3/2 metre ballad with some flexibility. The song form is abab but both the "a" and "b" phrases begin with the same melodic gesture.

All material on this webpage is copyright © 2004, Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive, Memorial University of Newfoundland. No unauthorized copying or use is permitted. For more information, follow this link.