From the recording Yours for Eternity

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Governor of Sombrero

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Based on the history of Robert Jeffrey, marooned on the rock called Sombrero, miles from inhabited islands like Anguilla, without food or water. His case was to initiate a 'sea change' in the treatment of sailors in H.M. Navy.


Written & Performed by Steve Dagleish
© 2016 All Rights Reserved

Raised for a blacksmith, Robert Jeffrey my son
Slight and fair, seventeen years young
My grey-eyed boy was lured by the sea
And to the Lord Nelson went he

H.M. Recruit, four hundred tons, eighteen guns
Lay off Falmouth harbour and short twenty men
A gang boarded Nelson, pressed Robert and more
Set sail for West Indies and war

This unhappy warship, petty tyrant at large
Warwick Lake, a master of cruelty in charge
Employed the starters to bruise his men’s bones
Spent days in his cabin, drinking alone

Tell me, oh tell me, how can it be
That this boy of Polperro, so dear to me
Tell me, oh tell me, how is it so
He’s the governor of Sombrero

Four months at sea, Robert stole him some rum
Midshipman Graham reported it done
They locked him in irons, two days of his time
Twenty-four lashes of cat for the crime

Two weeks went by, drinking water ran low
A cask of spruce beer was tapped by the crew
Robert hauled on deck, was asked to explain
“We were dying of thirst and had worked hard all day”

Lake, rather in liquor and mad with his rage
Ordered Ed Spencer to flog him again
This Spencer then whispered into Warwick’s ear
This warship is no place for thieves

East of the Virgins, no water, no trees
The rock called Sombrero stands alone in these seas
A mile long at best and a quarter-mile wide
Lake cast down my Robert to die

Robert, with hands clenched, tears rolled down his face
Watching the jolly boat row back to base
When he saw the Recruit sail away on the dawn
He threw himself down on the ground

Nine days of rainwater, but often of salt
An American schooner rescued my boy
The captain John Dennis, his saviour, his grace
Wiped the tears of joy from his face