Updated: Oct 30, 2020
Flogging a dead horse is an idiom. To continue an action that is a waste of time because the outcome is already decided. For sailors, it was a ceremony. Read to the end to watch footage of the song they sang during the ceremony.
Prior to setting sail from port, the crew were paid a month's wage in advance so they could buy what they needed for the journey. In the Ashmore Crew List, it was written just so. The doctor also mentioned this ceremony in his diary. Apparently, it was normal for the crew to waste their money on drink and other luxuries they found at the port. Some also used their wages to pay outstanding debts. After one month at sea, a ceremony was held when they received their first wage on board.
First, a life-size horse was made from leather or old sail canvas. It was stuffed with straw and a rope tied around its neck. It was then hoisted on the shoulders of the crew and carried around the deck. Then it was thrown overboard and the youngest sailor or newest member of the crew had to climb down the rope and sit on the horse. If the man fell off, it was almost impossible to turn around and save him in time.
An interesting fact about sailors was the majority of them couldn't swim. You'd think that would be an important part of training!!?? While the man was sitting on the horse holding on for his life, he had to sing a sailor's shanty. It was called 'Poor Old Horse'.
Next, the tormented sailor and abused horse were pulled on board and hung from the main sail. Let me rephrase that.... where the soggy sailor had to sit on the hung horse again. And yes, he still had to sing the same shanty while the crew held an auction. Who wins the auction on the Ashmore? You'll have to read on to find out.
Celebrations were held after the horse was cut from the main-sail and released into the sea. The sailors could finally afford to buy rum. Whisky was the sailor's choice on board the Ashmore. It carried barrels of it in the hull. More to come on that subject later.
To watch the POOR OLD HORSE - SHANTY while reading the lyrics, click below.
Video:The Rambling Sailors
Poor Old Horse
A poor old man came riding by. And we say so, and we hope so. A poor old man came riding by. Oh, poor old horse. *** Says I, "Old man, your horse will die."
And we say so, and we hope so. Says I, "Old man, your horse will die." Oh, poor old horse. *** And if he dies we'll tan his skin
And we say so, and we hope so. And if he don't we'll ride him again.
Oh, poor old horse. *** For one long month I rode him hard And we say so, and we hope so. For one long month we all rode him hard. Oh, poor old horse. *** But now your month is up, old Turk And we say so, and we hope so. Get up, you swine, and look for work Oh, poor old horse. *** Get up you swine and look for graft And we say so, and we hope so. While we lays on and drags ye aft Oh, poor old horse. *** He's as dead as a nail in the lamp-room door And we say so, and we hope so. And he won't come worrying us no more Oh, poor old horse. *** We'll use the hair of his tail to sew our sails And we say so, and we hope so. And the iron of his shoe to make deck nails Oh, poor old horse. *** We'll hoist him up to the fore yard-arm And we say so, and we hope so. Where he won't do sailors any harm Oh, poor old horse. *** We'll drop him down with a long, long roll And we say so, and we hope so. Where the sharks will have his body and the Devil take his soul.
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