A video posted on TikTok by a 26-year-old Scottish postman has gone viral. So dramatic is its proliferation, it is attracting attention from news organizations like NPR and the New York Times and late-night talk shows and cable television. The video is centered on a version of an old whaling song that I regularly feature on A Celtic Sojourn. So, it caught my interest.

This is a playlist article I first broadcast and published at the beginning of the pandemic as a source of comfort as our isolation began. Because of this ongoing darkness, and a TikTok phenomenon, I decided to re-visit the theme on a recent program where I spoke with David Coffin, a Gloucester-based expert on sea songs. I asked him about the song and its provenance. He pointed to a version he recorded himself on his excellent album The Nantucket Sleighride. I have included it below for context.

So, what happens when a Scottish postman posts a version of this whaling song to TikTok? Well, hundreds of people begin adding their own voices and instruments. Even a re-mix gets created, and suddenly, it is a worldwide phenomenon. For the full story, listen here. And then, enjoy the extensive playlist of shanties and songs of the sea. It's vicarious living for landlubbers the world over!

Brian O'Donovan Explores the Sea Shanty TikTok Phenomenon

David Coffin's original version of the song....

Soon May the Wellermen Come

In his introduction to the truly excellent collection, "The Revels Book of Sea Chantey's and Sea Songs," Revels founder, Jack Langstaff captures the essence of what this playlist.

"Sea music has a powerful effect on us," Jack Langstaff writes. "Life on the open sea can be beautiful one day and terrifying the next, and sailor's songs reflect the close relationship and vulnerability to extremes in weather that they must have felt every day in the Age of Sail. It is the juxtaposition of intensely hard work and wonder at God's creation that makes this music so compelling."

I got to know Jack in the 90s. He died at age 85 in 2015. He has been a massive inspiration for me and my work curating folk music and his store of sea music and understanding of its place in social history throughout the world, is one of the reasons I assembled this playlist for you to enjoy.

Listen to the stories in the lyrics, the emotions, the adventures, the terror, the back-breaking work, and the heartache. Best of all, sing along loudly with those rousing choruses!

The playlist is below. Remember the musicians. If you hear something you like, go to the singer's website and let them know. Buy a cd or a piece of their merch and tell them you'll come and see them in concert if they come around.

Details of playlist pending.

00:00: "Shoals of Herring," Louis Killen, Sea Songs
04:08: "Pleasant and Delightful," Jack Langstaff and Revels, Blow Ye Winds in the Morning
07:50: "Leave Her Johnny, Leave Her," Makem and Clancy, Live
11:36: "My Johnny's Gone to Hilo," The McGarrigles, The McGarrigle Hour
14:41: "Lord Franklin," MIck Hanly, Homeland
18:36: "John Kanaka," Clancy, O'Connell, Clancy, Untitled
21:35: "Adieu, Sweet Lovely Nancy," Popcorn Behavior, Strangest Dream
25:12: "The Dark Eyed Sailor," North Cregg, The Roseland Barndance
29:35: "The Mary Ellen Carter," Liam Clancy, The Wild and Wasteful Ocean
33:35: "Northwest Passage," Stan Rogers, The Very Best Of...
38:41: "Blood Red Roses," The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, Songs of Ireland and Beyond
40:36: "Mingulay," Richard Thompsons, Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads
44:46: "Rolling Home to Old New England," The Revels, Homeward Bound
49:58: "Lowlands Away," Kate McGarrigle and Rufus Wainwright, Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads
53:19: "The Seamen's Hymn," John Roberts and Tony Barrand, Across the Western Ocean
54:47: "Blow the Man Down," Fisherman's Friend, Soul Mates
57:37: "Leaving of Liverpool," Cast of St. Pats Day Celtic Sojourn 2018, WGBH Live Recording