Hey! Ho! Can’t You Hear The Steamer?



Hey Ho Can't You Hear The Steamer? Hey! Ho! Can't You Hear The Steamer? (Australian)
Letter dated 22 March 1913 from Fred Godfrey assigning a share of the royalties of Hey! Ho! Can’t You Hear The Steamer? (among numerous other songs) to Billy Williams (The Man In The Velvet Suit). That Billy never recorded it is a bit of a puzzle, as the song became a great hit for others. Note that there is no mention of Harry Gifford, further complicating the intellectual property rights picture.

Image source:
National Library of Australia,


Music by Fred Godfrey, words by Harry Gifford; Star Music “Popsy Wopsy Lancers” sheet music also credits Ella Retford — London: Star Music; Bert Feldman, 1913; Melboune: Dinsdales’, 1913.

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Cinch 5136 Hey! Ho! Can't You Hear The Steamer (from medley) Columbia-Rena 2178 Coliseum 506 Marathon 304

Listen to a 1913 recording by Bert Courtney.



An extremely popular number in what passed in England as “ragtime” style, which was all the rage just before the war, Hey! Ho! Can’t You Hear The Steamer? certainly got around, as the following excerpt from a letter home by a soldier on the Western Front attests:

Private Arthur Flemming,...who is in the machine-gun section of the Coldstream Guards, says: We were just behind the firing line, in support, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day [1914], but on the night of Christmas Day we went to the front trenches and we are close to the German trenches, and can hear them singing quite plainly.They were singing up to the early hours of Boxing morning, and playing a mouth-organ too, and yesterday we could hear some of them singing English rag-time songs, i.e., “Hey! Ho! Can’t You Hear The Steamer?”....But woe betide anyone who allowed himself to show his head over the parapet; he would have got shot.1



Jack Charman (Pathé 8777, 1913); as “Arthur Boynton” (Jumbo A605, 1913)

Bert Courtney (Cinch 5136, 1913)

Harry Cove (Marathon 304, 1913)

——— & Jack Charman as “Ted Yorke” (The Winner 2396, 1913)

Alexander Johnson (Albion 1437, 1913)

Stanley Kirkby (Columbia-Rena 2178, 1913; Canadian HMV 120177, ca. 1915; Zonophone Twin 1085, 1913)

W. Raymond (Clarion 850, 1913) [cylinder]

Daisy Taylor (Edison Blue Amberol 23213, 1913?) [cylinder]

Fred Marsden (Coliseum 506, 1914)

Ella Retford, in “Ella Retford Songs Medley” (Regal Zonophone MR-205, 1930); reissued on LP “The Greatest Music Hall Bill Ever Assembled” (Music For Pleasure, MFP-1146, ca. early 1960s); reissued on CD “Top Of The Bill” (Pearl PAST CD 9753, 1992)


Stage Interpolations

Interpolated by Cissie Thompson in pantomime Goody Two Shoes (Her Majesty’s Theatre, Dundee, December 1913); by Ruby Louis in pantomime Jack Horner (Theatre Royal, Nottingham, December 1913); by Dorothy Millar in pantomime Aladdin (Theatre Royal, Bristol, December 1913–January 1914); by Maude Mortimer in pantomime Peter Wilkins (Palace Theatre, Dundee, February 1914); by Lottie Holland in pantomime Cinderella (Hippodrome, Huddersfield, February 1914); by Dorothy Firmin in pantomime Forty Thieves (Sydney, 1913).



1  “Coventry soldier missing; Germans sing ragtime,” Coventry Herald, 15 January 1915, p. 2.