The real Admiral Benbow

I knew of the Admiral Benbow, the inn at the beginning of one of my favourite books, Treasure Island, and I guessed there must have been a real Admiral Benbow. I also remember my dad talking about a song he had learned at school (but I don’t remember it when i went to the same school however many years later) which was about a brave British admiral, and it had the bloody refrain ‘and when he had his legs shot off, he fought upon his stumps’. However i didn’t really connect the two until yesterday when I was rewriting a story I remember from childhood and had a character, a lighthouse keeper, called Mr Benbow.

I searched for information about Admiral Benbow and came across the song Dad had sung as a school boy:

Come all you seamen bold
and draw near, and draw near,
Come all you seamen bold and draw near.
It’s of an Admiral’s fame,
O brave Benbow was his name,
How he fought all on the main,
you shall hear, you shall hear.

Brave Benbow he set sail
For to fight, for to fight
Brave Benbow he set sail for to fight.
Brave Benbow he set sail
with a fine and pleasant gale
But his captains they turn’d tail
in a fright, in a fright.

Says Kirby unto Wade:
We will run, we will run
Says Kirby unto Wade, we will run.
For I value no disgrace,
nor the losing of my place,
But the enemy I won’t face,
nor his guns, nor his guns.

The Ruby and Benbow
fought the French, fought the French
The Ruby and Benbow fought the French.
They fought them up and down,
till the blood came trickling down,
Till the blood came trickling down
where they lay, where they lay.

Brave Benbow lost his legs
by chain shot, by chain shot
Brave Benbow lost his legs by chain shot.
Brave Benbow lost his legs,
And all on his stumps he begs,
Fight on my English lads,
‘Tis our lot, ’tis our lot.

The surgeon dress’d his wounds,
Cries Benbow, cries Benbow
The surgeon dress’d his wounds, cries Benbow.
Let a cradle now in haste,
on the quarterdeck be placed
That the enemy I may face
‘Til I die, ‘Til I die.

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