Norfolk & Good

Sea Shanties

February 25, 2021 Enjoying Norfolk Season 1 Episode 7
Norfolk & Good
Sea Shanties
Show Notes Transcript

Who doesn't love a good sea shanty? The uplifting tunes, often with a catchy, repetitive chorus, are easy to sing, clap or stamp along to.

Perhaps you have a favourite sea shanty yourself?

In this episode, we discuss sea shanties and chat with Sam and Steve of Norfolk sea shanty group, Nelson's Shantymen.

Around half an hour of unrehearsed, enthusiastic chat with Steph and Andrew of Enjoying Norfolk.

All details (pretty much) correct at time of recording.

Got feedback or want to join in the conversation? Contact us:

Want more? We upload supplementary material, including images and links to our Enjoying Norfolk Instagram after each Episode.

You can listen to Nelson's Shantymen on Spotify, Amazon Music, etc.

PLEASE NOTE / TRIGGER WARNING: This episode contains some discussion around a Covid-19 death. The discussion is not prolonged or graphic, but we realise it may be upsetting for some.

Roll The Old Chariot © Nelson's Shantymen, shared with kind permission.

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Andrew Kitt  0:02  
Hello, Norfolk Enjoyers. Welcome back to the Norfolk and good podcast. I'm Andrew. 

Steph Makins  0:08  
And I'm Steph. 

Andrew Kitt  0:09  
you can find us enjoying Norfolk on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and online at

In our last podcast we spoke about authors and books related to Norfolk. 

Steph Makins  0:25  
We did Yes. 

Andrew Kitt  0:26  
And we had some fabulous feedback from some of our listeners. Steph, would you had to tell us a bit more about that? 

Steph Makins  0:32  
Yes, absolutely. Thank you, Andrew. Yeah, we did. We had a really nice feedback, a really good response to our books and authors episode. One of our listeners who's actually from Norfolk, but now based in the Midlands, Sarah Louise, and she said that, if we enjoy history, she recommends looking at an author called Neil R Storey. Currently, he does a lot of books about the history of North Walsham, her hometown. And she's read one about North Walsham district. But wonderfully she remembers going into a shop in North Walsham with her Nan when she was younger, and her talking to him. And she says she remembers him as a very friendly man who adores his local history. Oh, cool. Good. Yeah. 

Andrew Kitt  1:19  
And we love a history book.

Steph Makins  1:21  
We do indeed. 

Andrew Kitt  1:21  
We'll have to have to look that one up. 

Steph Makins  1:23  
Definitely. Yeah, Neil R Storey. Fantastic. I also had from two of our regular listeners um, a little bit of feedback saying you missed out one of the most popular and famous author people today who's from Norfolk, I'm afraid: Stephen Fry. And that was from my Mum. Thank you for that feedback Mum, you cheeky monkey. So, last episode aside, this episode - bit of a change of direction - we are going to talk about sea shanties. 

We do love sea shantie action. The thing is actually the world has kind of pipped us at the shantie post because you might recently be aware of the renewed popularity of sea shanties via the social media platform Tick Tock.

Andrew Kitt  2:26  
Shanties have always been popular with me.

Steph Makins  2:28  
And me as well. We are we adore obviously coming from Norfolk we cannot help but adore the sea and all things maritime. And so... and actually I love a good sea shanty. We've seen a couple of local shanty groups The Sheringham Shantymen, Nelson's Shantymen.

Andrew Kitt  2:44  
I remember two lovely, lovely times when we were listening to shanties. 

Steph Makins  2:49  
Shanty Groups?

Andrew Kitt  2:50  
Shanty groups... at the pub was mainly with the first which was when we heard Nelson's Shantymen playing at The Jolly Sailors. Their Real Ale, yeah. At Brancaster Staithe. Their real ale and cider festival it's just perfect. They were they were playing I think in the in the tent there. And we're just sitting in the beer garden they're listening to, to the Shanty music, lovely. And the other time was when we.. the Sheringham Shantymen. 

Steph Makins  2:53  
Oh, yeah. 

Andrew Kitt  2:55  
When we walked over from Cromer to Sheringham and we walked along to the lifeboat station. 

Steph Makins  3:24  
And they happened to be singing outside. It was really lucky.

Andrew Kitt  3:28  
Yes, definitely was. Yeah. Yeah. And we sat there for ages in the sun listening to that.

Steph Makins  3:32  
I think that our boys got up and joined it at one point, didn't they? 

Andrew Kitt  3:36  
I think they did. They got a badge. 

Steph Makins  3:38  
I think they were invited to they didn't just crowd rush the stage.

Andrew Kitt  3:42  
I tried to. I didn't get a badge. But um, yeah, it was all about raising money for the lifeboat.

Steph Makins  3:52  
Was really lovely afternoon. Yeah, fantastic, great memories. And we thought this would be a fantastic topic to explore a bit, a bit more deeply.

Andrew Kitt  4:03  
Well I love a good singsong

Steph Makins  4:05  
Who doesn't? Absolutely. And it's got really nice sort of local connections as well. So we thought we'd actually speak to a couple of the members of local group the Nelson's Shantymen. 

Andrew Kitt  4:19  
Yeah, yeah. Excellent.

Steph Makins  4:20  
Now, what I would say before we go into this is that, unfortunately, times being as they are, the Nelson's Shantymen actually have suffered quite a serious loss in that they lost their leader, Chris to COVID last year in the very, very early days of the pandemic. So we must warn you listeners that if this is triggering any way or will upset you, then maybe it's probably not the episode to listen to. We are largely talking about the group and about sea shanties and that sort of thing, but there is mention of Chris and obviously about COVID. So just a warning in advance if that is likely to upset you, then it might be worth sort of switching off this time and coming back next episode. Otherwise, have a listen and obviously as usual feedback with any comments at the end. 

Today we're speaking to Sam and Steve from the Nelson's Shantymen. Hello. Hello, Sam and Steve. Thank you very much for your time. How are you both?

Sam/Steve  5:26  
Yes. Very well. Thank you very well.

Steph Makins  5:29  
Brilliant. Brilliant. Um... so really just wanted to find out a bit more about you actually.

Andrew Kitt  5:37  
Yeah, I was just wondering, I was just wondering whether you could tell us more about the group and the history of the Nelson's Shantymen at all.

Sam/Steve  5:45  
Yeah, well, we've been going 11 years next month. Basically, it all started with Chris, former leader. He went up to Liverpool to the Tall Ships Race with his wife in 2008. He came across a bunch of guys doing some shanty singing. And because Chris was always a bit of a, he liked doing amateur dramatics and all that and a bit of a performer. So when he came home, he said to his wife, I'd like to do that. And then, of course, he went across to the Sheringham Shantymen around the coast from us. 

Andrew Kitt  6:30  

Sam/Steve  5:49  
Had a word with them and said, you know, could I join your group? Because, you know, something I'd like to get into, and they said they were 25 strong already. And they didn't need any more members. 

Andrew Kitt  6:46  
Okay, yeah. 

Sam/Steve  6:47  
So then while up there, Brian Barrow, who's in charge of the Sheringham Shantymen, said why don't you set up your own group? And he said, we'll come over to the Lord Nelson at Burnham Thorpe - the pub. Their guys, and he said, if you want to meet up with some guys, yourself, and you know, we'll just have a night together and try it out. 

Steph Makins  7:08  
Oh, Oh, fantastic. So there's no rivalry between you and the Sheringham Shantymen then? 

Sam/Steve  7:13  
Oh, no.

Steph Makins  7:20  
So how long have you guys been involved with the Nelson's Shantymen?

Sam/Steve  7:27  
From day one. Because Chris was our next door neighbor. We done a little bit of amateur dramatics with him with the Burnham Players down here. So we got roped in from day one.

Steph Makins  7:41  
So last year, if it's 11 years, next next month, did you say? So last year was your 10 year anniversary then?

Sam/Steve  7:49  
Yes, yes. On the 14th of March at The Jolly Sailors at Brancaster Staithe. They put on a 10th anniversary party for us. 

Steph Makins  8:00  
Oh my goodness. 

Sam/Steve  8:01  
So yeah. Actually, that was our last gig. You see we've done cause then COVID we got locked down. 

Steph Makins  8:09  
Yeah, yeah. And so very poignant. And we will go...

Sam/Steve  8:13  
It was a great night. We thoroughly enjoyed it. But it was then a bit of a dampener. But because I were to see Chris the following day, because I was a treasurer, to get him to sign a cheque, and he wasn't very well. And...

Steph Makins  8:30  
And he he actually succumbed to COVID, didn't he?

Sam/Steve  8:34  
He'd got it then and within 13 days sad to say he'd gone, poor bloke.

Steph Makins  8:40  
Goodness me. Oh, that's so so obviously, you know, we're we're really sorry. We knew that anyway. So. And I know you guys have all been reeling from that shock, really? So it's very raw still. That's... Yeah, I mean, it's I suppose in some respects, it's bittersweet because you got to play out that...

Sam/Steve  9:01  
We did have a good night... is very good and Chris done a speech and said about how we started and the history of us and it's great night.

Andrew Kitt  9:11  
Yeah. And you rehearse, don't you, you you were rehearsing at The Jolly Sailors on a Monday weren't you?

Sam/Steve  9:16  
Yes, Monday night. Do half, half, seven to nine o'clock. Nine o'clock, because sometimes, you know, Tim, one of our guitarists.... He usually ends up just playing a load of random songs at the end.

Steph Makins  9:34  
So how have you have you managed to rehearse or play together in the last 12 months since those times of the first lockdown?

Sam/Steve  9:44  
Yeah, we also the first lockdown when they said, you know, six or more people could meet in outside areas. I've got a large garden here in Burnham Market. So I invited the guys round here and we set chairs out two metres apart, so we was all socially distanced and we did that for a few weeks. And it was good. You know, it's just trying to get the group together again because, yeah, well, like me and Sam, I mean, the rest of the groups are obviously mourning Chris's loss and it was quite hard the first time to get us all together, but it worked out. It was going well until of course then the restrictions are tightened.

Andrew Kitt  10:24  
Again, again, but we see Yeah, you put sometimes put the rehearsals up don't you, on Facebook?

Sam/Steve  10:30  
Yeah, we did. We were doing live recordings from there. Streaming them live. Okay. We got a lot of response.

Steph Makins  10:40  
And how, how many are your number now? In the Nelson's Shantymen?

Sam/Steve  10:45  
Well, we were 19 strong at the time of the anniversary. And then Martin's Dad Tom, Tom bless him - he was in his 90s.

Andrew Kitt  10:58  
Okay, yeah.

Sam/Steve  10:59  
But he hasn't been very well. So he saw when, by the way, you know, he's still - don't take it wrong - he's still alright. I don't think he'll come back. And of course, we lost Chris. And we went down to about 17. But without being able to regroup and find the figures. I think we might lose four or five more yet. Maybe... I don't know. Well, probably about 12 or 13 of us probably when we get back, we're guessing probably.

Steph Makins  11:34  
Obviously, we've no I mean, I don't I don't know whether you whether you keep up with things like Tik Tok and social media, but there's been a renewed interest in shanties online. And what I was just wondering sort of what do you guys are you kind of, would you consider yourself shanty experts, do you know lots about the history of sea shanties, and that kind of thing?

Sam/Steve  11:59  
Well, I wouldn't know a lot about it, obviously. But you know, I wouldn't say we're experts, I don't think the postman

Steph Makins  12:18  
What is it about see what is about sort of shanties that you enjoy singing and performing them?

Sam/Steve  12:25  
Well, obviously, the, the origins of the shanty was obviously working songs on the sailing ships. They used to sing and play musical instruments, and that to keep the rhythm. Obviously, hauling on the sails and the capstains and that to keep them all in a rhythm so the ropes would be pulled, you know, evenly and steadily together.

Steph Makins  12:48  
So you know, lots about it. And obviously, there's a huge connection with, you know, where you're based, and obviously, and Nelson and Norfolk, because of our, our sort of strong maritime connections, isn't there?

Sam/Steve  13:03  
Yes. Well, this is how we got the name because we started at the Lord Nelson at Burnham Thorpe, and obviously, Nelson was born in Burnham Thorpe and drunk in the Nelson there and so we just naturally thought that's the best name for us: Nelson's Shantymen.

Steph Makins  13:22  
That seems to make sense. Yeah, absolutely. So after we've spoken with you, we're gonna play out with a song that you sent over Sam 'Roll The Old Chariot'. Can you tell us... Can you tell us anything about that song?

Sam/Steve  13:41  
Well, the origins of the song are a little bit vague. It was actually stated to be originally an Afro-American song, that's been adapted, so we don't know 100% where it came from. 

Steph Makins  13:58  

Sam/Steve  14:00  
It's also referred to as a 'stamp and go' shanty or 'walkaway' shanty. Like I said a little while ago that the sailors when they hold onto the road and walk in a straight line, so they had to pull on the rope steadily all in one straight line.

Andrew Kitt  14:22  
Okay, yeah. Okay. That's very interesting. Yeah.

Steph Makins  14:26  
And the the version you sent over, did you tell me Sam that Chris is on that one?

Sam/Steve  14:31  
He is the singing it. Yeah, he is the lead guy singing is Chris. Yeah. It's like a 'call and response' song - what we call a 'call and response song'. Chris sings the verses and then we sing along to the choruses as a group. 

Andrew Kitt  14:47  
Okay. Yeah.

Steph Makins  14:49  
Oh, fantastic. I mean, the thing I really like about shanties is is they are they're uplifting like you say, in a sort of funny way. You can imagine them motivating you to do work and labour, can't you? They're very kind of, you know, you can't really sit around listening to a sea shanty. They're very inspiring, motivational.

Sam/Steve  15:13  
Some, some of them have a lot of energy. We put a lot of energy into... imagine, you know, back in the day on the ships and stuff. They probably do the same. 

Steph Makins  15:23  
Yeah, yeah, 

Andrew Kitt  15:24  
I put some I put some on for lunch today. I had to turn them off because

Steph Makins  15:32  
they were a bit too much. Yeah, but you can't beat them. I do love. I love the stories within the songs. They remind me very much. I mean, I suppose it's like a lot of folk based music. They often tell a sort of story and often the content isn't necessarily cheerful. You know, it's things like 'I'm going to sea I won't be back' or this kind of thing. And it's Yeah, it's it's what are your favorites personally, you guys? If that's not too a tough question 

Sam/Steve  16:05  
On the spot... two on separate CDs though, but they were actually written by one of our members, Mel Bingley. 

Steph Makins  16:15  

Sam/Steve  16:17  
One's called 'Overy Strand', oh, this is basically by Burnham Overy and what we what Mel was thought that Lord Nelson did as a child... watching the boats, sailing boats going in out of the harbor at Burnham Overy. Yeah, it's about... basically... Nelson as a child. Yeah. Our second song what he writ was called 'Four String Lions'. It's basically about the Battle of Trafalgar - Nelson. And then a demise - him dying and bringing him back home here to Trafalgar Square, well to St. Paul's Cathedral and thinking about Trafalgar Square, I quite like those ones. I'd say my favorite one is probably 'Dogger Bank'.

Steph Makins  17:11  
I've heard that before actually. Probably played by you guys. Actually.

Sam/Steve  17:14  
Yeah, Benny, who plays the Banjo in our group. He gets a bit carried away, bless him, it's a bit easy to get carried away and enjoy that one.

Steph Makins  17:26  
There's no shame in that.

Andrew Kitt  17:29  
And you mentioned your CDs. So where where can people listen to and buy your music then?

Sam/Steve  17:36  
The actual CDs, sells the hard copies. They have to be purchased from me. On our website which is They got their albums on there, and you can purchase them directly from me. You can also they can also be listened to by streaming platforms. So Spotify. we're on Spotify, I think we're on Apple Music, Amazon Music. Spotify, I mean, it's yeah, I got some I got some figures here, like the last seven days, we've had 6000 streams within the last 30 days. 

Andrew Kitt  18:18  

Steph Makins  18:18  
Wow. Have you noticed an increase in people streaming with the advent of this kind of newfound shanty fame? 

Sam/Steve  18:26  
Yeah. So Roll The Old Chariot in the last seven days, so the song that you'll be playing later - has in last seven days 4100 streams. 

Andrew Kitt  18:39  

Steph Makins  18:39  
That's amazing. That's really good. I mean, it's good because you're, you're potentially reaching a new audience as well.

Sam/Steve  18:46  
Big Big in America, according to Spotify.

Andrew Kitt  18:50  
Interesting. Yeah.

Sam/Steve  18:51  
Big in America, which surprised me a little bit.

Steph Makins  18:55  
It's very interesting. Although there are, there's a there's a we were talking about this in the last episode. There's a big connection between America and Norfolk and the East. And the sort of interest in maritime history and that kind of thing. And also a lot of ex-pats, a lot of ex-Norfolk people have gone out to America settled.

Sam/Steve  19:14  
Yeah, yeah. So I'd say these streams though, I mean, I know this Scottish postman brought out 'The Wellerman', which is one of the songs the songs he brought out, which was on Tik Toks took off. I mean, on the streaming, for us personally, obviously, we get paid so much for us. Yeah. But in the last 12 months, that's gone up quite a lot to what has been previous year. 

Steph Makins  19:42  
Okay. Okay. Could be because no one's got very much better to do. And so they're, they're reaching out to discover new things, or we're spending more time online and we're spending more time listening to music and podcasts and that sort of thing. It could be something to do with that, I guess. 

Sam/Steve  19:59  

Steph Makins  20:00  
'Cause can't we can't leave the house as much.

Sam/Steve  20:06  
I don't know if our local MP listens to your podcast, but James Wild, we'd like to thank him, he bought one of our CDs

Steph Makins  20:15  
We'll tag him in to the podcast... bless you 

Andrew Kitt  20:19  
And a lot a lot a lot of you a lot of things that you do for charity, isn't it?

Sam/Steve  20:24  
Yes, well all money raised - obviously we keep a little bit back if we have to buy...

Steph Makins  20:30  
Yeah, running costs and that

Sam/Steve  20:33  
Obviously like sound equipment you know, we have to keep a little bit of money back but all money - we're a nonprofit - all money goes to local charities.

Steph Makins  20:41  
Bless you.

Andrew Kitt  20:43  
Very good.

Steph Makins  20:44  
Very commendable 

Sam/Steve  20:45  
As of our anniversary night, which we did, the East Anglian Air Ambulance was the last one we gave on them a thousand 500 pounds. But the total up to that night was 30,000 we'd raised. 

Steph Makins  20:57  
Wow. That's amazing. Well done, guys. 

Andrew Kitt  21:00  

Steph Makins  21:01  
That's really, really that's I mean, that's fantastic. 

I suppose. What's next? What are your plans for this year? If you know with regards to Nelson's Shantymen, if you have any plans, given things as they are...

Sam/Steve  21:16  
We haven't got a lot of plans at the moment. We put on our website that we're not going to prepare to take any gigs on for the seeable future. And the main reason is because we haven't gotten together as a group to rehearse, you know reflect on what's happened this last year. So what we'd like to do when we can get - when we're available to - when restrictions lift enough - is re-group, get together. Yeah. See who we got, have a good old sing song and a pint of beer together and see where we are and move on. I mean, I did vow, because Chris always called me his of the group, and I always vowed after he died, because a lot of guys said are we're gonna call it a day and knock it on the head. And I said, No. I said, I want to try and carry on... Really for the memory of Chris. Yeah. And some of our guys, most of our guys, are of the older generation and they've been a bit depressed and down this last year, so I just thought it'd be good to get the group together and kickstart and see where we go. 

Andrew Kitt  22:24  

Steph Makins  22:25  
Yeah, sounds like a canny plan

Andrew Kitt  22:27  
and getting together for a sing song and a pint sounds fabulous.

Sam/Steve  22:30  
The plan is as well hopefully we get back from rehearsing properly. I mean, we we still want to do like a tribute gig, I suppose. Yeah, yeah. And the plan is hopefully we can probably do that in church somewhere around in Burnham probably and the plan is hopefully try and we won't try raising money for the NHS in King's Lynn because obviously that's where Chris was when he passed away. Yeah, we really want to try do a memorial gig for him and try raising money for the NHS and hopefully we can sort that out whenever the restrictions are all lifted, and we get back to some sort of more normality.

Steph Makins  23:10  
Yeah, that sounds like a really nice idea. Sam,

Sam/Steve  23:13  
we'd love to do it but we will have to put it on probably hold for the time being the aim is to raise as much money as possible for the QE. So we need it so we can pack a church out with an audience. Yeah, yeah. That's going to be the problem when we're actually allowed to do that.

Steph Makins  23:35  
So thank you for all of that. Finally being a being a podcast about Norfolk we can't really leave without asking you both your favorite Norfolk places or things to do

Sam/Steve  23:49  
Well... my favorite place, I suppose I would say around on this North Norfolk coast because there's some wonderful walks the coastal paths and that fantastic. 

Andrew Kitt  24:00  

Steph Makins  24:01  
it's true. 

Sam/Steve  24:02  
I am a die hard King's Lynn football supporter...

Steph Makins  24:08  
they made it to the FA Cup. Was it King's Lynn that made it? What did they make it to recently? King's Lynn Town, they made it quite far or

Sam/Steve  24:18  
Second round with the FA Cup they got. They beat Port Vale didn't they?

Steph Makins  24:28  
we watched it I was 

Andrew Kitt  24:29  

Sam/Steve  24:30  

Steph Makins  24:33  
That was a highlight for you then.

Sam/Steve  24:36  
I'd say my favorite thing I do ever since becoming like partially sighted. I like to do photography. 

Steph Makins  24:47  
Oh, wow. 

Andrew Kitt  24:47  

Sam/Steve  24:49  
My thing at the moment, like I love going to Holkham and Wells... just like, basically, you know, just the coastal paths in general. Like my Dad sais - the coastal walks around here are absolutely brilliant and you can get a better coast coastline, personally. I've personally being a Norfolk boy.

Steph Makins  25:12  
No, we're with you. They're

Andrew Kitt  25:14  
100% behind you on that.

Steph Makins  25:16  
No, I absolutely agree. It's just such a beautiful part of the world. 

I think that's that's all I had to have you got any other sort of things Andrew you wanted to ask? 

Andrew Kitt  25:25  
No, that's all great. 

Steph Makins  25:26  
Thank you ever so much for your time, guys. And we wish you all the best for the future with the group and obviously for yourselves individually. We look forward to seeing what you guys do next.

Sam/Steve  25:37  
Yeah, okay. Thank you very much. Thanks for including us.

Andrew Kitt  25:44  
And now we're going to listen to 'Roll The Old Chariot' by the Nelson's Shantymen, with Chris singing the lead.

Sam/Steve  25:58  

Andrew Kitt  29:34  
Wow, Nelson's Shantymen, that was absolutely wonderful. 

Steph Makins  29:38  
Yeah, loved that. 

Andrew Kitt  29:39  
Yeah. Really, really good shanty. Feel really...

Steph Makins  29:43  
Invigorated... ready to do some work.

Andrew Kitt  29:45  
Yeah, definitely. 

Steph Makins  29:46  

Thank you very much for listening. That's it for this week. As ever, if you do have any comments or feedback, then you can contact us through social media as Andrew mentioned in the beginning or via the website We always love to hear your comments. Perhaps you have a favorite sea shanty? 

Andrew Kitt  30:08  
Ah, we'd love to hear wouldn't we?

Steph Makins  30:09  
We certainly would indeed Yes. Otherwise, we hope you stay well and we look forward to speaking with you again soon.

Andrew Kitt  30:18  

Steph Makins  30:18