Monday, January 26, 2009

Captain Ginjah

As written by F.W. Leigh and sung by George Bastow, a man who with this and 'The Galloping Major' pretty much cornered the Victorian music-hall market in incompetent military lechers. Three generations of my family were bounced on mother's or father's knee to the chorus of 'The Galloping Major' - a rather dubious song about one man's quest for more 'bumpety bumpety bumpety bump'.

Bastow's version of 'Ginjah' is not on Youtube, but Harry Faye's is. A 'masher' was a Victorian dandy, a young man about town, dedicated to the pursuit of young ladies.

A soldier once was I, by jingo much admired,
The army lost a treasure on the day that I retired.
They begged of me to leave, they asked me as a boon;
They said my fiery whiskers made the guns go off too soon
But demmit, ???????, to make it all the same
The ladies, bless 'em, mashin' them has always been my game
Mashed them years ago, when I was in my prime
I'm known as Gingah, Captain Ginjah, Ginjah all the time

Chorus :

Gingah, Ginjah
They all know Captain Ginjah
Jolly old pot
O-T 'ot
Ninety-five in the shade, what what !
I love the ladies
Not one of them would I injure
All the girls are fond of Gin
Gin-gin-gin-gin-Ginjah !

I've been in action twice, and fought while blazing hot
The first was in Japupuland, and wounded there I got,
When I recall it now, it hurts my peace of mind
I stooped to pull my socks up and a spear stuck in behind
But Action Number Two was quite a different sort
To tell the truth, it took place in the breach of promise court
Plaintiff told her tale, when she proved it true
The judge said 'You be thankful that he didn't marry you !'

The soldiers of today, they don't deserve the name
The rough old dogs of my day used to live on smoke and flame
Each time the mighty guns discharged their shot and shell
I used to sniff the gunpowder (??) and demmit what a smell !
But what chance is there now, for men of blood and breed
My heart and soul are all afire to do some daring deed
Some say 'take a wife' - that game's not for me
I might find one more gingery than I know how to be !

(When lefty academics - and there are few other types these days - write about this type of stuff in a political context, they usually get it hopelessly wrong. The worldview seems to be that the songs can only fall into one of two categories :

they're either

a) deliberately manufactured stuff to keep the Empire upright, the soldiers fighting, women chained to the sinks or factory benches and the workers diverted from their own best interests by jingoism and a racist patriotic narrative. The same things we hear about the stories in the Sun and Daily Mail today.

b) the voice (often 'authentic' and 'working-class') of anticapitalist, anti-Imperialist subversion. Remember that 'subversive' is a good thing.

So 'Ginjah' is "a type which allows satire to undermine an upper class which assumes and has bestowed upon it undeserved status and authority". Funny. If ever an upper class deserved status and authority, it was the Victorian one. After all, their country controlled about a third of the world's surface - quite an impressive showing for a small island.)


Anonymous said...

And some of the "upper class twits" really did perform prodigies of valour. I particularly love the midshipman who was captured by the French (aged about 11); gave his parole until he decided he could speak the language well enough to pass; gave back his parole and made his way back to rejoin his ship.

He survived to become a mentor of Admiral Fisher.

Maybe the French thought it would be mean not to let him get away with it, but still v. impressive.

Anonymous said...

"Small island", nothing.

Seventh biggest in the world, I think you'll find.

Anonymous said...

I think the missing words in the refrain of Captain Ginjah, represented by the multiple question marks, are 'peace or war'. It's a great old ditty that I used to sing my daughter as a baby. Paul D, Sydney

The Trouvères said...

You've missed a complete verse!

When I look back and think, tut-tut what sport I've had,
In certain quarters I'm afraid my reputation's bad!
While strolling through the park, or riding in the Row,
I merely have to be polite to ladies whom I know.
"Ah Countess, how-de-do!", I knew her when a girl,
Sang in comic opera long before she met the Earl.
And there's the Duchess, oh, I nearly made a fluke,
We never speak as we pass by, it might upset the Duke!