Music: Trad. arr. Sheena Phillips. Words: Trad.
TBB, piano
performance time approx 2m 00s
Range T: d# – c'# / Bar: d# – c'# / B: d# – c'#
Price code: B
Complexity: **

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This piece is part of the set Six sea shanties
The next piece is The dead horse
If you don't want to buy the whole set, then you can buy Boney individually using the link on this page.
Boney is a short haul shanty, used for brief but very strenuous jobs – typically adjusting the set of the huge sails against the heavy pressure of the wind. In traditional shanty singing, it was the job of the shantyman to get shanties going by calling out the verses; then all the other sailors would pitch in with the choruses. In this arrangement, the shantyman’s role is taken first by the Tenors, then passed to the Baritones, then back again (or on to the Basses).

‘Boney’ is of course Napoleon Bonaparte, and the song gives a potted and partisan history of his adventures and final defeat at the hands of the British. The ‘Billy Ruffian’ is sailor slang for the Bellerophon, the ship that took Napoleon into exile on St Helena.


Boney was a warrior,
Away hey yah!
A warrior, a terrier,
Jean François!

Boney beat the Pruss-i-ans,
The Prussians, the Russians.

Boney marched to Moscow,
Lost his army in the snow.

We licked him in Trafalgar Bay,
Shot his main top-mast away.

’Twas on the plains of Waterloo,
He met the boy who put him through.

He met the Duke of Wellington,
And then his downfall was begun.

Boney went a-cruis-in’,
Aboard the Billy Ruffian.

They sent him into exile,
He died upon St Helen’s Isle.

Purchase – 2042: Boney

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