Paying their rent

I recently listened to James Keelaghan’s version of the shanty “Roll Down,” by Peter Bellamy, and was struck by this line:

Then, sweet ladies of Plymouth, we’ll pay all your rent

I thought, Huh, that seems like an odd thing for the sailors to do. More like a charitable foundation than like stereotypical sailors on shore leave. That’s kinda neat.

…and then I realized that the idea was that the sailors were paying the women for services rendered, and thereby providing them with money for paying rent.

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