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The Female Rambling Sailor Catherine Peaty

Come all ye maidens far and near
And listen to my ditty
It was near Gravesend there lived a maid
She was both young and pretty

Her true love he was pressed away
And drownded in a foreign sea
Which caused this fair maid for to say
I'll be a female sailor

With jacket blue and trousers white
Just like a sailor neat and tight
Sure the sea it was the heart's delight
Of the female rambling sailor

When in storm upon the raging sea
She was ready at her station
And her mind was as calm as calm could be
She loved her occupation

When in the calm this damsel young
She charmed the sailors with her tongue
She walked the deck and swiftly sang
The female rambling sailor
This maiden gay a wager lay
She would go aloft with any
From stem to stern she freely went
Where times she had been many

From stem to stern she freely goes
She braves all dangers fears no foes
And soon you'll hear of the overthrow
Of the female rambling sailor

From stem to stern she freely went
Where times she had been many
Her hold it slipped and down she fell
And calmly bid this world farewell

When a snowy white breast in sight it came
It appeared to be a female frame
And Rebecca Young it was the name
Of the female rambling sailor

O come all ye maidens far and near
Come listen to my story
Her body's anchored in the ground
Let's hope her soul's in glory

May the willows wave around her grave
And around the laurels planted
May the roses sweet grow at the feet
Of the one that was undaunted

May the roses sweet grow at the feet
Of the one that was undaunted
As fair a maid as the sun shone on
Was the female rambling sailor

On the river Fame she was known well
Few sailors there could her excel
One tear let fall for the last fairwell
Of a female rambling sailor


Collected by Bob Michell and Norm O'Connor from Catherine Peatey, who sings it on: Traditional Singers and Musicians in Victoria , Wattle Records 1963. In his notes on the record Edgar Waters writes "The story of a girl dressing as a man and serving as a sailor in the navy is certainly not an uncommon one in English broadside ballads of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries."

For many years I thought this was the only field recording of the song but recently I discovered though the internet that an earlier recording exists from 1932: Jack McNally in the USA was recorded by the folklorist Helen Hartness Flanders whose collection can now be searched online at Middlebury College.

Many thanks for permission to add their recocording to the Australian Folk Songs website:

File source: Middlebury College, Flanders Ballad Collection, used with permission
Usage restrictions: non-commercial, educational uses only; commercial recordings or further distribution/copying permitted only with permission of Middlebury College.
Copyright concerns regarding the original recording: contact Middlebury College at address below
Middlebury College contact: Andrew Wentink, Curator of Special Collections & College Archives,, Library 101, Middlebury College, Middlebury VT 05753 802.443.5501

Folklore on the Internet: Mark Gregory
In Search of Rebecca Young: Eric DeBeck
Warrior Women and Popular Balladry: Mark Gregory


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory