Sea shanties have made an unexpected comeback thanks to a Scottish postman’s rendition of one of the songs starting a viral craze on Tik Tok.

Folk musician Nathan Evans had never heard of a sea shanty when one of his followers on the social media app Tik Tok requested a rendition of Leave her Johnny, the last song sung at the end of voyage.

The cover, which now has 1.1million views, took off and the 26-year-old postman from outside Glasgow, Scotland, followed it up with a video of him singing ‘Wellerman’, a 19th Century sea shanty about whalers.

Posted on December 27th, it has since been viewed 4.1million times amassing 791.8k likes and 11.5k comments and has even sparked a new trend named #ShantyTok.

“It went crazy and after that I had at least a dozen comments asking if I could do them,” Mr Evans told the Telegraph. “I knew people would watch them but not to the extent that it’s reached at the minute.”

Crucially, his covers have also been the subject of ‘duets’ , a tool on the app that allows people to play their own harmonies and melodies on top of his.

The result has meant the catchy folk song is now an amalgamation of strangers adding their own takes to Mr Evans’ original version. Across the globe, artists have added their own tweaks including a baritone harmony and double bass – one user has even turned it into an electronic dance remix.

SeaShantyTok keeps getting better

— Peter Fries (@Peter_Fries) January 8, 2021

“It’s amazing, I don’t really think there’s any other platform other than TikTok where you would have found that,” Mr Evans added.  

He is now adjusting to social media fame – having been recognised by customers while doing his post round but hopes to release covers of shanties soon.

“On my duty, I’ve already been noticed three or four times, it’s a bit weird. I was giving a woman a parcel and she stopped and stared at me and said ‘I’ve seen you!’ and I was like, ‘how have you seen me? That’s impossible’.”

Sea shanties date as far back as the late medieval period and emerge from the collective labour of wooden sailing ships, explains Dr Elin Jones, lecturer in Naval and Maritime History at the University of Exeter.  

There was usually a leader, or ‘shantyman’, who sang verses and then the rest of the crew would join in for the sound swell of the chorus.

“Shanties were essential to coordinating maritime labour at sea, as sailors called and responded to each other high above in the rigging, ensuring they worked to the same rhythm,” said Dr Jones, who added that they were the “expression of a maritime underclass”.

The latest trend follows the popularity of The Fisherman’s Friends, a male singing group from Port Isaac, Cornwall, who had been performing locally since 1995 when they signed a record deal with Universal Music in March 2010 – and later become the subject of a feature film, released in 2019.  

Founding member Jon Cleave said the songs may have gone viral because they’re “ear worms”.

“I think sometimes when things aren’t actually composed, they just evolve and stand the test of time because they’re done by people without a huge depth of musical complexity in their minds.

“They’re just simple songs to a simple rhythm and are more memorable and easier for everyone to join in and pick up.”

The songs have become so popular in fact that Falmouth, Cornwall now hosts an International Sea Shanty Festival, which Mr Cleave describes as a “good old hearty matey meet up of men” but hastens to add that there are also some “fantastic female shanty groups” in attendance too, including Femmes de la Mer.  

One hugely popular folk band is The Longest Johns, who said it’s no surprise young people are “connecting” to the stories.

One of the founders, Jonathan "JD" Darley said: “The Wellerman, which is going crazy at the moment, is about one of the toughest and most horrible disgusting jobs you’ll ever do – whaling and the relief when they’re brought supplies.

“There’s so much within the shanty scene about people working tough jobs and getting through it by coming together.

“During 2020 that is absolutely what people are feeling, and it’s so easy to put yourself in that position, even though we’re obviously not freezing cold out at sea.”