Sunday, 29 August 2010
*Warning* This is a bawdy and off-color (comic) traditional sailor song about a prostitute of Callao, Peru. If that kind of song offends you, please be advised, as I do not wish to offend anyone.
The above version of the sea shanty is taken from hultonclint's channel on You Tube.
The sea shanty "Seraphina" appears in Lowry's short story "Goya The Obscure". A group of sailors returning from a voyage sing the sea shanty in the Dolphin pub in Birkenhead's docklands. Tradition has it that the song originated amongst the sailors who sailed the nitrate trade between Birkenhead and the West Coast of South America. Lowry later reprises the line "Seraphina's got no drawers" during Dana's trawl around the brothels of Dairen in Ultramarine. Lowry probably heard the song in the pubs of Birkenhead before and after his voyage to the Far East in 1927 aboard the Blue Funnel ship Pyrrhus. A former Blue Funnel sailor has told me that the song was still being sung into the 1950's around Birkenhead pubs.
There appear to be many different versions of the song including some without the refrain "Serafina's got no drawers" which obviously stuck with Malc. Here are the lyrics which Lowry may have known for the song:
In Callao there lives a gal whose name is Serafina
She sleeps all day and fucks all night in the Callao Marina
Serafina! Oh, Serafina!
She’s the queen, of all the whores that live in the ol’ Casino,
She used to screw for a monkey nut but now she’ll fuck for a vino.
At robbin’ silly sailors, boys, no gal was ever keener
She’ll make you pay right through the nose, that lovely Serafina!
She’ll guzzle pisco, beer and gin, on rum her mum did wean ‘er
She smokes just like a chimney stack on a P.S.N.C steamer.
Serafina’s got no drawers, I been ashore an’ seen ‘er
She’s got no time to put them on, that hard-fucked Serafina.
She’ll claw and kick and bite and scratch when in the old arena
She’ll rob you blind if she gets the chance that dirty she hyena
When I was young an’ in me prime, I first met Serafina
In Callao we saw the sights an’ then went up to Lima.
But the finest sight I ever saw was little Serafina,
But the very next day as we sailed away, I wisht I’d never been there.
I used to love a little girl whose name was Serafina
But she’s gone off with a Dago man who plays a concertina.
In the above version there is a clear reference to a Pacific Steam Navigation Company (PSNC) ship. The company sailed out of Birkenhead and Liverpool in the early part of the 1900s. Maybe, the sea shanty was adapted as happened to include local references.
The most famous recorded example of the song is by Stan Hugill who was born in Hoylake, Wirral. The shanty was released on the album below:
You can discover more about Hugill's music and writings at a website dedicated to his memory.
There is also another version available for download from Amazon taken from an album called Salty Dick's Uncensored Sailor's Songs.