On November 18th while helping out at the Transcribathon of the ship’s journal from the Galvin Rare Book Room at the Boatwright Memorial library I registered to transcribe some pages myself. See the previous post in our blog by Angie White for a more detailed look at the Sail Away site.
I had never done anything like this before. These events and crowd sourcing of this type of work is becoming more and more common.
Transcribing the 19th century hand writing was not as straight forward as one would think. We were instructed to transcribe exactly what we saw in the image of the journal’s pages, not even correcting spelling. I looked through a number of pages before I decided to transcribe one of the last pages of the journal, page 250 which had just a few lines on it. I figured correctly that even a few lines would take me quite a while to transcribe.
The page I worked on is below. Click on the image for a larger view:
Marion Dieterich who has more experience transcribing this journal, helped me with the transcription, and here is what I found:
Lest [yom] ones see the
Devil with his little
spade and shovel
Digging up potatoes on
the turn pike woods,
That is about as close as I could get.
The phrasing and words piqued my interest and with a little help from our friend Google, I searched the phrases “Devil with his spade and shovel” in any number of combinations adding and taking away potatoes, turnpike, and turn pike as two words
What I found was that this was an old English or Gypsy traditional song. Here it was recorded by June Tabor on her 1994 CD “Against the Streams” and i found another mention in a book from 1872 about popular Romances in the West of England. And there were others too!
Why did our journaler, Veron G. Locke who presumably wrote these words, write down this phrase from a song in his journal in 1855? Had he just heard this song and wanted to remember the words? Was it one of his favorites? Was he the author of the song? If you find earlier references to the song, feel free to comment.