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Press Gang

Press Gang in action

 

Press Gang

 

The army has employed devious ways of recruiting men (and occasionally women) and the press gang phenomenon gripped the public imagination like a grown man’s Bogyman. Songs arose from these reckless gangs gleaning the city taverns and occasionally civic buildings for young blood to man the war ships.  The forcible enlistment of soldiers through the ‘press gangs’ was once quite common and during the 18th century, seventy percent of soldiers were ‘pressed’ into the King’s fleet by this method. Teams called ‘Lobsters’ roamed the streets for hapless victims and kidnapped able-bodied men. Understandably, this caused widespread discontent throughout ‘press-scoured’ districts and many songs have grown out of the pain of lovers being separated. However, it was not unknown for protective parents to pay off the ‘Yellow Admirals’, leaders of these gangs, to ‘remove’ unwanted lovers. From the singing of Ewan MacColl.  


This song was part of Singing Histories, a national project led by Sing London to create booklets and resources containing traditional folk songs and history from eight areas across England.

The Singing Histories - London illustrated song book (which includes this song) can be downloaded from the document tab at the top of this panel.  Audio recording(s) of this song are also available from the audio tab.

 

More videos

  • Press Gang: refrain alto or tenor harmony sung by Sam Lee

    Download: mp3(256.37KB) ogg(143.24KB)
  • Press Gang: refrain bass harmony sung by Sam Lee

    Download: mp3(256.37KB) ogg(205.99KB)
  • Press Gang: sung by Sam Lee

    Download: mp3(3.66MB) ogg(3.97MB)
  • Press Gang: sung by Sarah-Jane Miller with fiddle accompaniment

    Download: mp3(6.28MB) ogg(5.42MB)

Digital Archive records related to this item

Note that these links take you to the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library website which holds the full archival details of the material. Material on the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library website is not censored or expurgated and may contain material considered offensive by modern standards.

Maps on the Full English site related to this item

Note that these links take you to the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library website which holds the full archival details of the material. Material on the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library website is not censored or expurgated and may contain material considered offensive by modern standards.