This song was written by Hugh Jones of the Liverpool-based “Spinners” folk group. It’s about the days of the gold rush in Australia. Crews would often jump ship in Australia to seek their fortunes. Bully Forbes was a notorious skipper whose job was to keep the crew on board once they reached port. His grave may still be seen in a churchyard in Liverpool.
Banjo – Glenn Jenks; Chorus – Glenn Jenks, Gordon Bok
The Marco Polo’s a very fine ship
Fastest on the sea
On Australia’s strand we soon will land
Bully Forbes he can look for me.
Going to jump the ship in Melbourne town;
Going a digging gold.
There’s a fortune found beneath the ground
Where the eucalyptus grows
Chorus: |: Marco Polo! Fastest on the sea!:|
Said the Blackball owner, Mr. Baines
To Bully Forbes one day
“It’s up to you to keep your crew
While the gold lures them away”
Said Bully Forbes to Mr. Baines
“I have a plan so fine
Leave it to me and then you’ll agree
I’m the king of the Blackball Line”
When we reached Australia’s shore
Bully Forbes declared, “There’s scurvy
On this trip you won’t leave the ship
Until we reach the Mersey”
Now we lie in Salthouse dock
I’ll go to sea no more, sir
Done me time on the Blackball Line
And Captain Bully Forbes, sir
* Chorus (the same 2x but also 1 extra)
Below is a link to the story of the Marco Polo in .pdf format.
Wooden Ships and Iron Men segment