The Longest Song Wiki

Composed by singer, songwriter, and naval submariner Cyril Tawney, of Gosport, Hampshire over the course of multiple years from 1953-1959, and sung on his album "Sally Free and Easy" in 1989.

Of the song, Cyril once wrote:

This was the last song I wrote before I left the Royal Navy in 1959. ‘The Grey Funnel Line’ is the sailors' nickname for the Royal Navy—just as if it were another mercantile line. It's a straightforward song about a sailor leaving home and the loved one. He's extremely fed up with the Senior Service and he'd rather be outside, but he has to go away yet again. On occasions like this I think the close of the first day out, as the sun is setting, is the time when we're most vulnerable to nostalgia. There's a shanty with the refrain ‘Rock and roll me over for one more day’, and this gave me the idea for my own refrain ‘It's one more day on The Grey Funnel Line’.

You can read more of what the author himself had to say about it here.

The Grey Funnel Line is the third track on Written in Salt.


These lyrics are based on the version performed by the Longest Johns on Written in Salt. the original lyrics can be found here.

Don't mind the rain or the rolling sea,
The weary night never worried me.
But the hardest time in sailor's day
Is to watch the sun as it dies away.

Here's one more day on the Grey Funnel Line.

The finest ship that sails the sea
Is still a prison for the likes of me.
But give me wings like Noah's dove,
and I'll fly up harbour to the girl I love.


Each time I gaze behind the screws
I wish I had Saint Peter's shoes.
Then I'd dance on down that silvery lane,
And rest in my true love's arms again.


Oh Lord, if dreams were only real,
Then I'd feel my hands on that wooden wheel.
And with all my heart I'd turn her 'round
And tell the boys that we're homeward bound.


I'll pass the time like some machine
Until blue waters turn into green.
Then I'll dance on down that walk ashore,
And sail the Grey Funnel Line no more.