Mudcat Café message #3620830 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #22617   Message #3620830
Posted By: Jim Carroll
21-Apr-14 - 11:18 AM
Thread Name: Origin: High Germany
Subject: RE: Origins: High Germany
Not unrelated t this song, though song origins are virtually impossible to pin down and invariably end in tears
Jim Carroll

Banks of the Nile (Roud 950, Laws N9)
Pat MacNamara
The theme of this song a woman asking her soldier or sailor lover to be allowed to accompany him to battle or to sea, is not as unbelievable as it might first appear. Armies once trudged their way around the world accompanied by 'camp-followers', mobile settlements of women, children and tradesmen all running risks not too different from those taken by active soldiers. Following the defeat of the rebels at Vinegar Hill in 1798, British troops rounded up and massacred the camp-followers who assisted the rebels during the fighting. Camp following lasted into the nineteenth century and continued to be a common part of army life into the 19th century.
The same went for seamen; in 1822 an anonymous pamphlet suggested that members of the Royal Navy were taking as many as two women apiece aboard the ships. These women also proved useful in that they fought alongside their lovers at the Nile and Trafalgar during the Napoleonic wars. The well-known saying "show a leg" is said to have originated from the practice of officers in the Royal Navy clearing the crew from their hammocks and bunks by demanding that the occupant sticks their leg out to show whether they were male or female.
'Banks of the Nile' is probably the best known song of women accompanying their lovers into battle or on board ship. Though this version refers to the practice among the Irish military forces, the song is just as popular in England and probably originated there