The Longest Song Wiki

Fire Marengo is a curious piece of traditional folk song puzzle. The lyrics of tune tune are often collected pieces from other similar chanties, and it isn't uncommon to hear references to famous songs such as Sally Brown, Hilo, and Sugar in the Hold. The song has been sung by numerous artists in the last century and a half, but the origin of the song is near impossible to trace. The earliest textual collection of the work is Erskine and Nordhoff in 1846, who learned the song while working as stevedores in New Orleans, Missouri and Mobile, Alabama.

The song was performed by The Longest Johns in their November 2019 Livestream, with Andy taking the lead.

Factoids

The point of greatest mystery in reference to this song is the origin and meaning of the word Marengo. In numerous variations of the song, the word becomes Maringo, Morengo, my Ringo, and the Ringo.

The Battle of Marengo was an easy victory for Napoleon in Italy in 1800, where the village of Marengo was taken very swiftly by Napoleon's forces.

It has been suggested that the word is slang for a stevedore, or for black freedmen loading ships (based partly on the etymology of Marengo as a adjective describing a dark grey colour).

Stan Hugill credits the word as of Irish origin (citing 'numerous Irish folk songs' but only giving a single example which, it is believed, he may have wrote himself.) Hugill's origins of words are often suspect.

Of interesting note, offered by a poster on Mudcat Cafe regarding the subject is a connection to Major Samuel Ringgold, an artillery officer who served with General Taylor. Prior to Ringgold's death in 1846, his artillery troops were known to sing a song called "Fire Away". The opening verse of Fire Marengo shares striking similarities with General Taylor.

There is no definitive answer on where Marengo originates.

Lyrics

These lyrics are based on the version performed by the Longest Johns on their livestreams.

Lift him up and carry him along
{Fire Marengo, fire away!}
Stow him down where he belong
{Fire Marengo, fire away!}

Ease him down and let him lay,
{Fire Marengo, fire away!}
Screw him in and there he'll stay.
{Fire Marengo, fire away!}

Stow him in his hole below,
{Fire Marengo, fire away!}
and stay he must but then he'll go.
{Fire Marengo, fire away!}

When I get back to Liverpool Town,
{Fire Marengo, fire away!}
I'll cast a line to little Sally Brown.
{Fire Marengo, fire away!}

Oh, Sally, she's a pretty little craft,
{Fire Marengo, fire away!}
She's shot to the fore with a rounded aft.
{Fire Marengo, fire away!}

I'll haul her high and I'll haul her low,
{Fire Marengo, fire away!}
I'll bust her blocks and away we'll go.
{Fire Marengo, fire away!}