Richard Runciman Terry, in The Shanty Book, writes that although its musical form is that of a halyard shanty, it was always used at the capstan for heaving the anchor.

Though this song has its humor, it was typically sung with an air of sadness and regret. It dates back to at least the 1830s. The novelist Captain Frederick Marryat tells of hearing the crew of a Western Ocean packet ship singing it at the windlass in A Diary in America (1839).

This "up anchor chantey" was known to the Māori sailor Tohi Te Marama in Milford Sound, New Zealand, who shared it with James Cowan for his 1912 article in The Canterbury Times.