Great Western, The

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Notes on the Song and Its Historic Context:

[Note 142.1] The Great Western was launched in 1837 and set the standard for transatlantic liners.

Above  is The Great Western Steamship of Bristol by W Sergent and below is the woodcut printed at the top of the song-sheet.
The song-sheet printer has used a generic woodcut of a paddle steamer that can be found illustrating several other songs.


 The original is a song called Merrily O'er the Wave I Go; poetry by Rev. John Wreford and set to music by Austin Phillips. The earliest record of the song in the UK is a report in Musical World Volume IV, January 4th to May 23rd 1839, p164 which says that the song had been received for review. The original sheet music seems to have been published in New York [USA Library of Congress; Music for the Nation]

The song-sheet claims that the song was "sung by the passengers on board that in-rivalled Atlantic Steamer".  singing together was a popular pastime amongst people of all classes and it is quite possible that this song was brought to England by a passenger travelling from America.

Great Western: A new song does however have a third verse beginning "I talk with the waves the wind and stars" which does not occur in the American song sheets.



Last updated 16th October 2017