This text of this song was collected by Sabine Baring-Gould in the late 19th century. It was taken down from J Rich, a farmer of Horndon, Mary Tavy, Devon who’d said he learnt it from J. Friend, labourer of Horndon. It’s a song that was written around the 1860s when the overloading and sinking of ships – for insurance money – was reaching a crisis point with thousands of sailors drowning every year. The MP Samuel Plimsol took up the cause and drove a bill through parliament which resulted in all ships having a plimsol line or watermark painted on the hull to define how much load they could take.