Admiral Benbow – A Sailing Song


Whaling and Sailing Songs: The Tradition Years sung by Paul Clayton

It was often at Marais
Calling Benbow by his name
He fought on the raging main
You must know
Oh, the ship rocks up and down
And the shots are flying round
The enemy tumbling down
There they lay, there they lay

The ship rocks up and down
And the shots are flying round
The enemy tumbling down
There they lay, there they lay

‘Twas Reuben and Benbow
Fought the French, fought the French
‘Twas Reuben and Benbow
Fought the French,
Down on his old stump he fell
And so loudly he did call
Fight ye on, me English lads
‘Tis my lot, ’tis my lot

Down on his old stump he fell
And so loudly he did call
Fight ye on, me English lads
‘Tis my lot, ’tis my lot

When the doctor dressed his wound
Benbow cried, Benbow cried
When the doctor dressed his wound
Benbow cried,
Let a bed be fetched in haste
On the quarterdeck be placed
That the enemy I might face
‘Til I die, ’til I die

Let a bed be fetched in haste
On the quarterdeck be placed,
That the enemy I might face
‘Til I die, ’til I die

On Tuesday morning last
Benbow died, Benbow died
On Tuesday morning last
Benbow died
What a shocking sight to see
When Benbow was carried away
He was carried to Kingston church
There he lay, there he lay

What a shocking sight to see
When Benbow was carried away
He was carried to Kingston church
There he lay, there he lay

This sea shanty about Admiral Benbow is not to be relied upon for historical accuracy, although that doesn’t detract from its enjoyability. ‘Reuben’ is more than likely a corruption of an earlier version of this song referring to ‘Ruby’, the ship that fought with Benbow in the battle that has come to be known as the most disgraceful episode in British naval history. Just as there are several versions of the song, there are differing versions of Admiral Benbow’s life online.
Song is not the only place where Benbow’s name turns up … he is mentioned in Thomas Hood’s Faithless Sally Brown and the Inn in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island bears his name. Present day Admiral Benbow Inns devotes a page to the battle that cost Benbow his life.
Benbow’s tombstone lies in St. Thomas Church in Kingston, Jamaica. To see all of his memorials, and to learn more about his life, visit Brave Benbow.
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