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Wherries: Wherry; A light rowing-boat used chiefly on rivers to carry passengers and goods [OED] As shown in the picture below

 

Note 1: Does your mother know you're out was popular song written in 1837 by W.H.C. West The first verse runs 
I am the  laughing stock of all, 
No rest, no peace have I,  
The young, the old, the great and small 
All at me have a shy. 
I think its very, very hard, 
And so would you no doubt 
If they cried whene'er you walk'd abroad. 
Does your mother know you're out?

Note 2: "As large as any mansion, Now the steamers seem to float" - The size of the steamers relative to that of the wherries is shown in this image of the Thames near the Tower of London in the early 19th century.

Note 3: Mogg's Table of the new Watermen's Fares, published in 1828 cites a rate of one shilling per half hour for 6 customers. [ref: Regency Reader website http://www.regrom.com/2017/03/08/regency-travel-wherries-on-the-thames/] This would be very good pay for the time. The fact that the waterman "looks queer...of six good looking customers, and each one sure to pay" suggests that it was not uncommon for customers to refuse to pay. The statement that the customers had "gaffed with him and lost" suggests that they had tossed a coin to decide whether or not the waterman would charge for carrying them.

Note 4: "To come out after seven years, Upon my own acconnt (sic)" - To complete an apprenticeship or period of indentured service (in this case seven years) and be recognised as a fully qualified and competent practitioner of a trade able to work for themsleves.

Note 5: "As near Limehouse we drew" - Limehouse quay

Note 6: "He shook just like an aspen leaf" - The Aspen tree known for its quivering foliage which shimmers in summer sun.

The incident described is typical of many accidents due to the reckless behaviour of steamer captains and the lack of regulations controlling navigation on the river. See also bar112 ~ Excursion to Putney. The song exhibits the robust humour of the age.

Like many songs from the period it is a parody. In this case of a popular song called The Return of the Admiral written by the English poet Bryan Waller Procter (1787-1874) under the nom-de-plume 'Barry Cornwall'. The first verse of that poem runs...

How gallantly, how merrily, we ride along the sea !
The morning is all sunshine, the wind is blowing free ;
The billows are all sparkling, and bounding in the light,
Like creatures in whose sunny veins the blood is running bright.
All nature knows our triumph-strange birds about us sweep-
Strange things come up to look at us, the masters of the deep.
In our wake, like any servant, follows even the bold shark-
Oh, proud must be our admiral of such a bonny barque.

The poem was set to music by Henry Phillips. [British Library shelfmark Music Collections H.1660.m.(29.) ]

 Another of Barry Cornwall's poems is the basis for Bar321 ~ The Rail! The Rail!

 

 

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