Submitted by Ian Robb

This well-known sailor’s farewell, in its many versions, seems to have become a favourite memorial song in recent years. There are several versions of the chorus going around, and I always find myself trying to guess, usually wrongly, which one to sing, so I’ve used the simplest version I know, and also kept the song fairly short.

The term “white stocking day” refers to the happy day on which the wives, sweethearts or mothers collected an advance on their absent sailor’s pay. The last verse I’ve added from the text of the Georgian Sea Islands song, “Good-bye My Riley-O.”

Bold Riley sheet music
Download a PDF of the sheet music for “Bold Riley.”


Oh the rain it rains all day long
Bold Riley-o, bold Riley
And the northern wind, it blows so strong
Bold Riley-o has gone away

Goodbye my darling, goodbye my dear-o
Bold Riley-o, bold Riley
Goodbye my darling, goodbye my dear-o
Bold Riley-o has gone away

We’re outward bound for the Bengal Bay
Crack on my lads, it’s a hell of a way

Now Mary, Mary, don’t look so glum
Come white stocking day you’ll be drinkin’ rum

Oh Riley, Riley, where are you?
Oh Riley’s gone, and I’m going too.

Self-described “singer and writer of old songs” and concertina player, Ian Robb started singing English folk songs during the 1960s British folk scare. He emigrated to Ontario in 1970, gravitated to Toronto’s Fiddler’s Green coffeehouse and was an original member of The Friends of Fiddler’s Green. He moved to the Ottawa area in 1973, co-founded that city’s Old Sod Folk Music Society, and sang for 25 years with the celebrated harmony trio Finest Kind. More recent projects include a transatlantic collaboration with the Arrowsmith:Robb Trio, and a 2021 recording project with James Stephens, “Declining with Thanks,” which includes “Bold Riley.”