Out of my window, looking in the night: "Barges" song origin?
June 5, 2013 11:37 AM   Subscribe

What's the story on the traditional Girl Scout song, "Barges"?

I've found a lot of people asking, but no solid answers: see here and here.
Out of my window, looking in the night,
I can see the barges' flickering light.
Silently flows the river to the sea,
And the barges, too, go silently.

Barges, I would like to go with you,
I would like to sail the ocean blue.
Barges, have you treasures in your hold?
Do you fight with pirates brave and bold?

Out of my window, looking in the night,
I can see the barges' flickering light.
Starboard shines green and port is glowing red,
You can see them flickering far ahead.
There are other verses, versions, and parodies galore, and lots of stories about this song's origin, but no answers yet that have anything like a good citation. So far, people's memories of the song predate the published versions I've seen references to.
posted by asperity to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Don't know if you've seen it already, but this thread (scroll down a bit for the content) has lots of theories as to the song's origin.
posted by limeonaire at 11:43 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Girl Scouts used to have a branch called the Mariner Scouts. I wonder if it originated from them?
posted by phunniemee at 11:45 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Further investigation (music history really isn't my area): I checked the Roud Folk Song Index and found this 1969 recording. Anyone know of any earlier references or other resources I should check?
posted by asperity at 12:07 PM on June 5, 2013

Well, it's not in this 1956 Girl Scout Pocket Songbook. It's such a staple of girl scouts that I expected to find it in the songbook.
posted by 26.2 at 12:30 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I dont have the answer but i popped in to say thanks for bringing up a memory of this song that id long ago forgotten. Gosh i miss girl scouts and summer camp.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 1:40 PM on June 5, 2013 [5 favorites]

I sang this (with a different melody than in the link) as a Girl Guide in Toronto in the late 80s/early 90s.

Doesn't really help you find an earlier source, but I wanted to point out that if you're only looking at American (Girl Scout) sources, you might be casting too narrow of a net.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:56 PM on June 5, 2013

Response by poster: A different melody in Canada? Wow, I'd love a link to any version you can find of the version you sang. Given we've got what appears to be some random old guy on record singing it in 1969, I'm assuming it's not necessarily of Scout/Guide origin -- but where does it come from?
posted by asperity at 2:11 PM on June 5, 2013

I learned it from my mother who would have been a girl scout in the 40s/50s so it must be older than 1969.
posted by interplanetjanet at 2:27 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, people in that long thread I linked are saying they sang it in the '60s for sure.
posted by limeonaire at 3:28 PM on June 5, 2013

I learned this at a summer camp founded by the people who founded the Campfire Girls in the early 1900s, so another vote for it may not just be a Girl Scout song.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:30 PM on June 5, 2013

Response by poster: I'd seen the long thread from Mudcat and linked it in my question -- I know it's got lots of data points for when and where people learned it, but I'm looking for something more concrete, preferably with more verifiable origin info, or contemporary transcriptions of the lyrics.

I tried The Folk Song Index and haven't come up with anything yet. Print sources would be fine for this; I'd be happy to do some hunting.
posted by asperity at 4:03 PM on June 5, 2013

Oh, sorry, I didn't realize that was the same Mudcat thread.
posted by limeonaire at 4:23 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a bunch of old songbooks (mostly sunday school and patriotic) and I don't see it in any of them. I don't have any camp songbooks though.
posted by interplanetjanet at 7:31 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

We sang this in Canada in the 70s and 80s. It was probably older than that, but I had songbooks from at least around 1979 or 80 that had it in it. My family was very involved in Scouts and Guides. We were told it was written by a girl at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, just outside Vancouver, where she would look out at the Fraser River and see the barges. She intended to finish it, but never had that chance, so we always hummed the third verse out of respect.

I was stunned to read the thread noted above, just now, and I wonder what the true origins are.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:29 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

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