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Paul Jones

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Performer: Pillinger, John
Place Collected: Lechlade
Date collected: Between 1913 and 1916
Collector: Williams, Alfred
Roud Number: 967

This ballad has quite a back story and is based on true events.  The Scotsman John Paul Jones (1747-1792) gave his services to the American side in their War of Independence.  He garnered a reputation of being a hard commander and is thought by some to be the fonder of the American navy.  The French gave him a warship, the Bonhomme Richard which by all accounts was in bad condition, poorly maintained and with an uncoordinated crew.  In 1779, a squadron of ships led by Jones attacked a British merchant group off Flamborough Head, Scotland. After a fierce and bloody battle, Jones captured the leading British vessel, the Serapis, but the Bonhomme Richard sank.  Jones sailed the captured Serapis to Holland.  Thus Jones became an American national hero.

The ballad, which borrows lines from several other songs including Henry Martin and The Bold Princess Royal was printed many times and the text can be seen here

Paul Jones is featured in another ballad The Stately Southerner.

As can be expected, the ballad has been collected in the USA, but also Canada, as well as England.   This is the only Gloucestershire version.


Notes by Gwilym Davies 8 April 2016