Wreck of the Mary Jane


Come all ye dry land sailors bold who never went out in the rain
And I will sing in praise of a ship that was called the Mary Jane
The Mary Jane was a one-mast ship, she was built in the town of Taghmon
She carried a crew of a hundred and two with a cargo of farmer’s dung

The captain, he was a Dutchman and he hailed from Barrack Lane
His wife was the man behind the mast on board the Mary Jane
The mate was a great navigator, and his nose was as red as a tart
He belonged to the Wexford militia and he knew every pub on the chart

We had a French cook from Mullinavat, Pat Murphy was his name
And he was chief cook for spoiling the soup on board of the Mary Jane
The morning that we left Taghmon, our ship ran short of wind
So the crew had to get right out in the wet and everyone shoved behind

When going around Long Stone Cross, a terrible storm, it blew
So we tightened her sails with a horse’s reins, and we steered for Timbuktu
Next morning our cargo shifted, and the captain cried, ‘We’re done’
But every man took a sprong in his hand and went down for to turn the dung

Next day we ran short of tobacco, we hadn’t a bit in the bag
When the captain and crew had ne’er a chew, they started to chew the rag
And now we were short of lime juice and the herrings were covered in salt
The skipper, he told the mate so bold, when he’d come to a pub to halt

The mate, he kept a sharp lookout, for he was fond of a drop
When he saw the green light, he shouted, ‘hold tight, we’re into a doctor’s shop’
The Mary Jane took a stitch in her side, and so did the rest of the crew
So she went ashore at the doctor’s door and she never reached Timbuktu

Wexford 1

Songs of Wexford


There was a ship called MARY JANE that was lost after running aground on a voyage from Sydney to Portland in ballast on 01 May 1852. Her captain was Joseph McKinnon. She was owned by G. Thornton; built in 1846; Registered at Sydney: Registration no. Sydney 79/1851. Length: 21.3 m

As you will readily see, this ship has nothing to do with our song

The Wreck of the Mary Jane is a tongue in cheek song about ‘dry-land sailors that never went out in the rain’. The Mary Jane was supposedly built in land-locked Taghmon, several miles inland in Co Wexford and nowhere near the coast. The intended journey was to Timbuktu which is several hundred miles from the sea.
The song was collected by Colm O’Lochlainn from a 19th century ballad sheet.