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.
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Oh! Sally Brown, she's a bright mulatter, Ch: Way-ay roll an' go! She drinks rum an' chaws terbacker, Ch: Spend my money on Sally Brown!
Sally lives on the old plantation, She is a daughter of the Wild Goose Nation.
Seven long years I courted Sally, But all she did was dilly-dally.
Sally Brown, what is the matter? Pretty gal, but can't git at her.
I call her my ol' Queen o' Faces, Bought her coral beads and laces.
Sally Brown I took a notion, To sail across the flamin' ocean.
I shipped away in a New Bedford whaler. When I got back she was courtin' a tailor.
Now me troubles they are over, Sally's married to a big, black soger.