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I learned most of my shanties from the singing of Francis Gill who sang in the great raucous style for which the shanties are famous. His style was unique, as he had had sailed the seven seas for many years as a merchant seaman or, as he always said - " a sailor john".

Francis taught me so much before he slipped his hook a few years ago and went to join Stan in the big square-rigger in the sky. Years previous I had been gifted with a copy of Stan Hugill's book, 'Shanties from the Seven Seas'; a book that I still study to this day and I mean study. So between Stan and Francis I have learned so much about the great art form of the shanty, to which I am truly indebted.

Through this learning I have been so lucky to be a part of the square-riggers built in Fremantle, Western Australia where I was the first person to introduce the shanties and the way they were sung in the traditional way to operate those miles of ropes. I hope Stan approves from his vantage point on his own particular yard arm to see how we have passed on these great shanties to the youth of Western Australia who have sailed on the STS Leeuwin. This Barquentine was built in Fremantle and launched in 1986. It was a dream of Mr Ma1colm Hay to build something for the youth.

This would please Stan so much because he was the forerunner of such projects at the Outward Bound Sea School at Aberdovey UK. From the early fifties and for about 25 years after that Stan was a major part of this Sea School at Aberdovey. What he passed on to the students and adults alike was absolutely incredible. To think what Stan had carried around in his head all those years before the Second World War sailing the seven seas was amazing. If it weren't for Dr. Kurt Hahn (who was the Headmaster of Gordonston School in Elgin, Morayshire, North Scotland) we would have lost an incredible Maritime heritage. Dr. Hahn persuaded Stan to put his experiences and shanty knowledge into a book. Stan eventually did this and titled his book "Shanties from the Seven Seas". If you haven't read this book and are interested in shanties and what Stan has collected and printed, you must read this book. Go no further, it is all here. There are over 400 shanties with words and music and an explanation for each individual shanty, all written and collected by Stan Hugill. He actually sailed the seven seas in these wonderful square-riggers and in his day was known throughout the nautical world as a great shantyman. Alan Villiers, the author of many nautical books depicting true stories of these ships, had himself never sailed with Stan, but heard so much about his skills as a true "shantyman". Now, his book can be still purchased from Mystic Seaport Museum, Connecticut, U.S.A.

When you think that Stan probably sailed with old shantymen from the 19th century and who were still sailing in the early 20th century it must have been incredible what he actually learned from these sailors. I mean, look at who his favourite shantymen were and what he learned from them. These were two of the great coloured gentlemen of the West Indies, Harding of Barbados and Harry Lauder. They were extremely colourful characters and Stan was always amazed how they could scream out the whips and yelps required in certain shanties, at a pitch which sailors from other countries couldn't reach. These whips and yelps would be screamed out by these shantymen to encourage the sailors to give one final haul on a clew or halyard to stretch that sail one little bit more. .

Stan actually first went to sea at the tender age of fourteen and his first ship was steam driven not a square-rigger. This was in 1921, but shortly after he was sailing on ships like the "Garthpool" in which he was shipwrecked in 1929. I do believe Stan was actually ship wrecked twice in his lifetime on the sea.

Stan Hugill has left us with an incredible legacy of the shanties of the seven seas of which I am proudly passing on to youth and adults alike. To me it's great to sail on STS Leeuwin or Bark Endeavor and see the volunteers and paying passengers sing along with me, as we haul on a halyard to raise one of those beautiful sails. This makes it all so worth while after years of learning to see the art form of shanties being passed on. I have now sailed on many square-riggers as the 'Shantyman' from different ports in Australia. These include 'The Windward Bound' from Hobart, 'The Bounty' from Sydney, 'The Krusenstern' from Russia and not forgetting our very own 'STS Leeuwin" and 'Bark Endeavor'.

Stan Hugill'_ book "Shanties from the Seven Seas" has enabled me to learn this art form and introduce the shanties to these square-riggers and pass it on to youth and adults who now continually sail these ships. Alan Villiers mentions in his writings that it could have died forever if it wasn't for Stan Hugill. To Stan all I can say is, "Thanks me shipmate and fellow shantyman. The shanties will now live stronger than ever in all those lovely square-rigger replicas which have been built all around the world over the last thirty years". Francis Gill, I hope you are watching you old 'sea dog'; you've set me a real task in passing these shanties on, but I am absolutely loving it and I am sure you will be pleased at the success of our new shanty group, 'The Windjammers'.

 

Alister (Digger) Wilson December 2004