Big Ship Sailing

TITLE: Big Ship Sailing
AUTHOR: unknown
CATEGORY: traditional, public domain
KEYWORDS: nonballad ship
EARLIEST DATE: 1914 (Dann)

Also known as “The Big Ship Sails On The Ally-Ally-Oh” – and doubtless other variants – this well-known children’s song appears to have started life as a nursery rhyme, although as with many folk songs its precise origin is unknown. There has been some suggestion that it was inspired by the Manchester Ship Canal or even by the Panama Canal, though unlike many nursery rhymes which have sinister origins, it is probably a simple and amusing playground ditty. (Songfacts

OTHER TITLES AND VARIATIONS:

  • The Alley-Alley-O
  • The Alley-Alley-O!
  • The Alley-Alley-Oh
  • The Illie-Alley-O
  • A Big Ship’s Sailing
  • A Big Ship’s Sailing Through the Alley-Alley-O

RECORDINGS:

YOUTUBE VIDEO: 

YOUTUBE AUDIO: download
LYRIC & CHORD PRO CHART: download
PPT LYRICS FOR THE CLASSROOM: download
BONUS YOUTUBE VIDEO: Vintage Nursery Rhymes

Big Ship Sailing

There’s a big ship sailing on the il-li-al-Iay oh,
The il-li-ay-Iay Oh, The il-li-ay-Iay oh.
There’s a big ship sailing on the il-li-al-Iay oh,
Heigh-ho, il-li-al-Iay oh.

There’s a big ship sailing, Rocking on the sea,
Rocking on the sea, Rocking on the sea,
There’s a big ship sailing, Rocking on the sea,
Heigh-ho, rocking on the sea.

There’s a big ship sailing, Back again,
Back again, Back again,
There’s a big ship sailing, Back again,
Heigh-ho, back again.

SOURCES:

  • Folk Song Index: A Comprehensive Guide to the Florence E. Brunnings Collection, Florence E. Brunnings, Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London 1981—Amazon Books

NOTICE: I’m not the best guitar player or vocalist, but no one loves these songs more than I do. The tune and lyrics are in the public domain unless otherwise noted. The recording © copyright 2013 by Stephen Griffith and may be used by permission of the copyright holder. The variation of the song I’m posting is the version I perform and is not exactly replicating the sources cited, but is always in the same song family. If anyone has more details about this song, or believes I’ve stated something in error, please let me know. I’m also open to suggestions to improve the site. Thanks. sgg

2 Comments

  • Ray Russell
    July 25, 2013 - 5:22 pm | Permalink

    Steve, Most impressive. A mountain of information here and good singing by the author. Ray

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