logo Enthusiasms No 51
A collection of shorter pieces on subjects of
interest, outrage or enthusiasm ...

Pellew1. I am grateful to VWML, particularly Peta Webb, for supply of material and the Bodleian and Cambridge university libraries for permission to quote from stock.1
Lord Exmouth and the Battle of Algiers

In the article elsewhere on this site, The Nile, Nelson and Others, mention was made of Pellew, Lord Exmouth and a ballad entitled the Battle of Algiers; a ballad referring to the bombardment of the city by the British in 1816.2. See MT article 172.2  The piece exists in copy from Pitts and Catnach, Birt, Fordyce in Newcastle, Walker in Durham, Plant in Nottingham and Jackson in Birmingham - 'late Russell' as it says on copy so the piece may have been inherited: Jackson's printing dates run between 1840 and 1855.  Fordyce may have printed contemporaneously with or just after the two major London printers though not before 1826.  Plant, too, printed in part at the same time as Pitts and Catnach, there actually being references available to both 1796 and 1828 as dates of operation.  The Walker family, like Plant, printed from an early date but the more easily verifiable period of operation began in 1834.  Birt we would expect to follow Pitts (detail on some sheets and printing office at the same address).  This gives us a solid portion of printing issue which could well have been near to the event through Pitts, Catnach, perhaps Walker, Fordyce and Plant; but, nonetheless, offering a trickle effect through the late 1820s.3. For copy of The Battle of Algiers, see Catnach in Madden Reel 77, Number 325; Pitts, same source, Reel 76, Number 376; Plant, same source, Reel 87, Number 118; Walker, same source, Reel 83, Number 628; Birt, same source, Reel 79, Number 208; Fordyce, same source, Reel 83, Number 202 and Jackson, same source, Reel 88, Number 431. Catnach copy may also be found in the Bodleian Allegro archive as Firth c. 13(37), Harding B 16(15b) and Harding B 20(222) and Pitts printed the piece also as The Bombardment of Algiers Or, Downfall Of Slavery in Madden Reel 75, Number 823. Printing dates given here come largely from the British Book Trade Index (available on line) but efforts are still being made to collect even more precise evidence.3  There is, therefore, something of an extended life for the piece but it is Jackson only who was left to represent a printing process well on in the nineteenth century after which the trail goes dead, mirroring the fate of much material concerned with one-time heroes.

This is not quite the only Exmouth 'evidence'. Mention should be made first to a piece entitled The Fall of Algiers, from Evans in London, which referred to the time 'when France was subdued' but when:

Humanity sigh'd to see Afric enslave
          The Christians
And, in response to an appeal by nations to England:
… Exmouth, in thunder, bore down on Algiers
          To make the Moors yield … 4. See Madden Reel 74, Number 86.4
The Battle of Algiers itself is a piece that consists, in large part, of a list of the vessels engaged in liberating slaves from the city of Algiers in 1816 - Queen Charlotte, Superb, Leander, Impregnable and so on.  The presence of a Dutch fleet acting in concert indicates the shifting allegiances of the period …  Camperdown and Duncan's 1797 victory over the Dutch was not that far distant in the past but the French wars had made a huge difference to various alliances and the maps of Europe:
Now it is of six Dutch frigates, that did our fleet combine,
Their Admiral's signal made for them to form a line,
They anchored by our batteries their admiral to them said,
Take pattern by those English lads, they shew you gallant
          play … 5. See Catnach in Madden Reel 77, Number 325.5
The engagement was notable for Pellew's forethought in spying out the field of fire available to the defenders.  He then sent in a column of ships to anchor out of reach of gunshot but able to bombard the mole that enclosed Algiers harbour; whilst at the same time placing two other ships outside the harbour – again out of range of Algerine guns but able to bombard ships inside the harbour.  By this means over a thousand slaves were freed and a temporary halt brought to the operations of slave-traders on the north African coast (figures actually vary but the slaves would appear to have consisted mostly of Italians and Spanish).  However, corsairs soon began operating again and it appears that, proportionately, British losses during the bombardment exceeded those even at Trafalgar - actually, there were 818 casualties but this was sixteen per cent of the attacking force!6. See Linda Colley: Captives Britain, Empire and the World, 1600-1850 (London, Pimlico, 2003), pp. 132-133.6

Little is said in the ballad of Pellew (only the title 'Lord Exmouth' is used) other than that he commanded and that

Lord Exmouth will your rights maintain, as you shall plainly see
How we all fought like lions bold to set the Christians free.
The 'rights' are not, in fact, specified.  Their appeal is conventional: the surfacing of an ideal golden age in British history in the same manner as can be found in some ballads about Nelson.7. See MT article 172 and references to The Battle of the Nile and England's Glory … which ballads offer an appeal to a mythical past in which England's rights were sacrosanct.7  The ballad does stop to mention 'rocket ships and bomb ships', comparatively recent developments in armament: Sir William Congreve had invented a method of firing rockets from ships by 1804.  So it is not absolutely routine in reference.  At any rate, 'British' boys showed 'British play' and 'The Algerines from their batteries were forced to run away'.  A health would be drunk to Exmouth and his captains …

Pitts put out another piece with the same title and, whilst neither the name 'Pellew' nor that of 'Lord Exmouth' appears, tribute is paid to 'our bold gallant admiral' in his attempt 'For to banish slavery, and set all Christians free' and we cannot doubt that the admiral is one and the same.8. See Pitts copy in Madden Reel 75, Number 797.8  The action took 'Eight hours and twenty minutes' and praise is heaped on 'Our bold and gallant allies' – 'bold' and 'gallant' are familiar from many other ballads about heroes of the period - and the words are repeated: 'These bold and gallant Hollanders they joined in the fray'.9. Other examples of the usage of 'bold' and 'gallant' were discussed in MT article 166 – in Nelson's Fame and England's Glory and Nelson's Death and Victory; and in MT article 172 – Battle of Trafalgar and Nelson or The True Blue.9  The engagement took place over two days because 'Our shipping being damag'd we hauled off in the night' and the next day a flag of truce was sent which was ignored.  The following day, however, 'these proud rascals' did agree to surrender the Christians.

This is all predictable enough in respect of sentiment and expression and would seem to characterise the action approximately.  Exmouth had offered peace terms to the Dey – the ruler of Algiers - and when the terms were not immediately accepted, continued his preparations, beginning the bombardment, whereat the Dey capitulated.

May God preserve our Admiral may he with laurels
Likewise our officers and seamen belonging to the [?]
Likewise our gallant allies I wish with all my heart
Who joined with our British tars and play'd a noble
          part …
The ballad did not resurface during the later nineteenth century in printed form.  Nor did either it or the other version of Battle of Algiers appear in sung repertoire.10. There is one other piece about Algiers but this would appear to be a reconstruction of one of the accounts, sometimes based on actuality, of capture by Barbary pirates, which circulated from the late sixteen-hundreds on; and there is nothing at all to link it with Pellew's bombardment - see The Siege of Algiers in Bodleian Allegro archive as Johnson Ballads 1378, n. i., where information is given that the piece had been printed in London 'for the author and sold nowhere else in Town or Country' … the author is not named. Again, Linda Colley's book offers a survey of corsair action over an extended period of time (op cit, ch.2) and of the publication of tales (ch.3) … We should not forget the forerunner of such tales, Lord Bateman.10

But there is a song about Pellew which was found during the English 'folk song revival'.  This came from David Marlow in Hampshire and was noted by George Gardiner.

The opening lines are as follows:

Come all you native men of war that loves your native land,
I'll have you join the Victory, Lord Exmouth gives command …
The use of a capital letter on 'Victory' might have indicated reference to the ship, but Pellew had never served on her and she was already pensioned off by 1812.

The rest of the piece turns out to be yet another rather vague gesture towards British triumph on the high seas with an echo of the Battle of Algiers:

Lord Exmouth does his rights maintain and that you soon shall see,
They fought like any lions bold to set old England free …
However, there are no details with which to identify any particular battle.  If Algiers had been an intended subject, then one might presume that the composer of the piece depended on a public awareness of the event and this, in turn, would suggest that its issue would have been contemporary with or very soon after the 1816 bombardment.  The song, though, appears to be incomplete, finishing with but two lines in a four-line stanzaic form …
The next broadside we gave to them, we struck them such a wonder,
Their lower yards, their maintopmasts came rattling down like thunder,
That's very well done our Captain cried, that's bravely done said he,
Come load your guns, we'll prime them well and we'll show them British play.

So now we have gained the victory, let's take a glass of wine,
If you can drink to your true love, then I will drink to mine.
And, in fact, beyond the inclusion of the name, Lord Exmouth, we cannot properly associate the song with Algiers.

There are no details of notation either but George Gardiner got songs from Mr Marlow in September, October and November 1906 - no other dates of collecting from David Marlow are available.  There are, in fact, nine songs in Gardiner's Fair Copy without dates of notation in amongst the Marlow collection, including Lord Exmouth, and checking back through notebooks reveals that none of these nine songs are dated there either.  But the important 1906 contact had been made by Gardiner with Charles Gamblin assisting in notation of tunes and it is most likely, therefore, that Lord Exmouth was taken down at that time.  Gardiner's haul from David Marlow consisted of some twenty-six songs, with 'sea' songs including The Bold Princess Royal, The Wreck of the Brazing, Jack, the Jolly Tar-O!, I am a Brisk Young Sailor and Adieu, My Lovely Nancy; and one song about Napoleon – Have you heard of a battle that's lately been won (found in broadside form as Boney's Total Defeat12. Boney's Total Defeat … can be found as a broadside in the Bodleian Allegro archive as Harding B 12(6) – words by J. Thompson – put out by Pitts. David Marlow's song has differences in expression and emphasis but there is no doubt that it uses the same text.11) which latter allows a shred of historical context for Lord Exmouth - the David Marlow stock is otherwise bereft of named heroes.  There is no doubt that Mr Marlow's repertoire is worth more study (under way) especially since he was a faithful landsman who never apparently moved from his native village and yet had acquired those sea-songs mentioned above.  His Lord Exmouth is perhaps best accepted for its rarity value.

In the wider context of text and sung repertoire which concerns the exploits of heroes, some small confirmation is found of what appears to have been typical progress and decline and the thinnest of survivals.

Roly Brown - 29.12.05
Oradour sur Vayres, France



Rod Stradling - e-mail: rod@mustrad.org.uk  Tel: 01453 759475
snail-mail: 1 Castle Street, Stroud, Glos GL5 2HP, UK

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