Cor bugger Janner

Another sailor’s yarn, it’s time to swing the lamp to give you landlubbers some force fed naval culture.  It was the Sailing Races in Weymouth at the Olympics that stirred a memory.

A Janner in naval terminology or pusser speak; is someone from the West Country specifically Plymouth.  It is believed to originate in Devonport dockyard when talking to their workmate “John” tis pronounced Jan in Devonian see?

Rather like workers in the Chatham Dockyards being known as “Marmites” from colloquially talking “Estuary English about “Mar Mites” instead of my mates.  As for Portsmouth being known as Pompey it is supposed to be from the Portuguese, Bom Bahia, two words meaning good harbour; also the origin of Bombay, sorry Mumbai.

There was a yarn about an infamous Portsmouth Lady of the night known as “Pompey Lil” who reputedly, perhaps that should be disreputably, had two false legs.  Two Devonport ratings had removed her legs and hitched her up on the church railings.  After having their wicked way they had walked off without paying, leaving her hanging.  She was heard to berate the matelots as “You bloody Janners are all the same, if you’d been proper Pompey men you would have helped me down when you finished”.

I digress as usual; Once upon a time when Nelson was a lad, I was an Upper Yardsman or embryo officer and gentleman taking a run ashore in Weymouth.  Our huge Aircraft Carrier being too big to go alongside was anchored out in the bay.  All the libertymen were ferried ashore using a naval MFV (motor fishing boat), as per standard operating practice.

My shipmate and I proving our suitability for gentleman status, went sightseeing in the lovely Dorset countryside, had one gin and tonic and returned to catch the liberty-boat as per our orders at 2100 hours. Meanwhile the remainder of the crew had promptly got themselves completely rat-arsed (another naval term meaning as drunk as skunks) on the local “scrumpy” once they had discovered it was only one shilling a pint.

There were quite a lot of merry sailors singing their tribal shanty “The Janner Song” as we approached the gangway. It was November, cold, dark and blowing up for a gale, imagine; about sixty somewhat inebriated crew men, singing:-

Half a pound of flour and rice, makes a lovely clanger, 
Just enough for you and I, cor bugger Janner, 
Oh how happy us’ll be, when us go’s to the West Country, 
Where the oggies grow on trees, cor bugger Janner. 

Where be that blackbird to, I know where he be, 
He be up yon worzel tree, and I be after he. 
Now he sees I, and I sees he, and he knows I be after he, 
with a bloody great stick I’ll hammer ‘ee, Blackbird I’ll have ‘ee.

Together with two young “Snotties” trying to look as though we weren’t with them. The officer of the watch called down to the MFV “Coxswain, take them round the harbour until they have learned to behave”.

B@stard! Stupid, Sub Lieutenant; we fended off and took a trip around the harbour. It started to rain and then some bright spark decided that all officers are B@stards and set of an ox-blood fire hose. This is a fire-fighting implement that pumped sea water through a barrel of ox blood which when mixed with sea water produces thick white foam. They aimed the foam at the two ‘bloody officers’ but also covered the vessel and everyone aboard with it. It was very cold, very wet and very slippery.

In spite of this, as we came up to the accommodation ladder for the second time, sixty voices began, “Half a pound of flour and rice, makes a lovely clanger, Just enough for you and I, cor bugger Janner”. This was followed by an apoplectic officer of the watch screaming at the Coxswain to take them round again.

So it went on, six trips around the harbour until about 0200 hours, cold, and wet, bedraggled and by this time silent, we were allowed back on board. The only two to get it in the neck were my fellow Upper-Yardsman and I.  We were told in no uncertain terms that we ought to have known better.

Oh happy days, cor bugger Janner!    JC

About Jake

Long retired travel writer, author and freelance journalist. Educated at Wolverton Grammar and Greenwich Naval College. Happily married since 1958, with a married son and daughter, a married granddaughter and an adult grandson. Hobbies rock-climbing, dinghy racing and ocean racing. Still regularly working out in the gym.

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