Photo Credit: Jennifer Long

South Australia is a work shanty that can often be heard floating across the water from our boats. While there are many interpretations of the ‘sea shanty’ genre, a broad definition is as a particular type of work song that sailors use to keep entertained (and coordinated!) during tasks on a boat. These songs became popular during the Age of Sail and are kept up in modern times by tall ship sailors and folk singers, among others. Sometimes there is a shantyman, or lead singer, who is responsible for setting the tempo of the song and for making witty variations on the verses.

Work task or no, take a few minutes to sing South Australia! Music and lyrics below.

Note: The tunes, lyrics and history of a single sea song or shanty are often diverse and debated, given how these songs were passed along and changed (often simultaneously on many ships all over the seas). This is part of what is beautiful and fascinating about them. What we’re representing in this blog post is only one, and certainly not the only, version of a song and its history.


Full Lyrics - South Australia

In South Australia I was born

(To me) heave away, haul away

In South Australia round Cape Horn

We’re bound for South Australia



Haul away you rolling kings

(To me)heave away, haul away

Haul away, you’ll hear me sing

We’re bound for South Australia


As I walked out one morning fair

‘Twas there I met Miss Nancy Blair

I shook her up and I shook her down

I shook her round and round the town




I run her all night and I run her all day

And I run her until we sailed away

There ain’t but one thing grieves me mind

To leave Miss Nancy Blair behind




And as we wallop around Cape Horn

You’ll wish to God you’d never been born

In South Australia my native land




Full of rocks and thieves and fleas and sand

I wish I was on Australia’s strand

With a bottle of whiskey in my hand