Sunday, December 12, 2010

“Spanish Ladies”

I’m sure I’ve told you that when I was a kid my dad shared the Swallows and Amazons books by Arthur Ransome with me. He’d read them as a boy, and when I got hold of them I read all twelve of them, some over and over again. They are stories about the adventures of the Walker, Blackett, and Callum children sailing and playing in the Lake District in England as well as in the Norfolk Broads in the 1930’s, all written in loving detail about things that I loved; sailing and camping. I imagined myself partaking in those adventures when I would go sailing with Dad up on Grand Traverse Bay. Back in the 1970’s on a trip to Stratford I found all of them in paperback and spent — for me — a fortune in getting them all. I still have them, and I’ve been re-reading them again; it’s like visiting old friends.

One of the things the Walker children do is sing old sea shanties that they’d been taught by their father, who is a commander in the Royal Navy. One of the shanties is “Spanish Ladies,” and Ransome went to great lengths to incorporate it into several books. But I’d never heard the tune, so I made up my own and sang along with them. Now, thanks to the miracle of YouTube, I’ve found the shanty. So, Dad, here it is, sung by the Robert Shaw Chorale, better than either of us ever could, and truly a link to times we remember sharing.

“From Ushant to Scilly ’tis thirty-five leagues.”