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24 September 2014
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Maggie May

Duke Street sign
Maggie May reputedly lived on Duke Street.

audio Hughie Jones of The Spinners: Memories of Maggie May
Hughie Jones recalls his memories of Maggie May.
Real Player required: More Info

My first job was as an office boy in Duke Street and I’d heard the rumour that Maggie May lived at number 17. One day somebody came in and said a funeral has just gone by and it was Maggie May and that was in 1952. I thought that can’t be true because I’ve always known the song; there’s two versions.

Maggie May's flat on Duke Street
The supposed residence of Maggie May on Duke Street

It seems that the landsmen sing the dirty version and the sailors sang the clean version. Sailors were very puritanical in that way because they reserved their dirty songs, and there were hundreds of them, for on board ship. When ashore, they wouldn’t sing their working songs, their shanties, they would sing what they call forebitters, which are songs they sang for their own amusement.

There is a clue in the song as to when Maggie May was born.
' Four pound ten a month it was, my pay.'
So I found out what an able seaman’s pay was, when it was four pounds ten. That gave me an idea of the date. So was she still alive in the 50s? It is possible. Maggie May had many contemporaries of course. One was called Jumping Jenny and the famous one was The Battle Ship, pretty ominous really.


audio Hear the Maggie May folk song
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Oh Maggie Maggie May, they’ve taken her away,
And she’ll never walk down Lime Street anymore. For she’s robbed so many sailors
And Captains of the Whalers
That dirty, robbing, no good, Maggie May.

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