The Ancient Mariners, Connecticut, fife & drum corps, were founded July 4, 1959 by Roy Watrous, a Guilford native with a passion for the sea, who recognized the possibilities of forming a musical group with a nautical theme. With the ring of the fife & drum in his ear, and the haunting melodies of the chanties from the days of the square rigger, his vision of the Ancient Mariners became a reality. Their portrayal of the common sailor of 1812, brings to life a vivid display of the colonial seaman through an enthusiastic rendition of a musical good time. Built around the wood fife and the rope tension drum, the Mariners play and sing a variety of traditional music. from up tempo hornpipes and jigs to the work songs used aboard ship, the story of the ancient sailor is told.
On parade, the Mariners are led by a "pirate" in chains guarded by a cutlass clad "boarding party". A booming ship's cannon follows, announcing the coming of the musical unit dressed in white pants and blue fearnothing jackets. On the concert stage, another side of the Mariners becomes evident. With the fifes & drums, the Mariner Chanteymen take center stage to give the audience a historical presentation, in song, of life aboard ship. The Mariner Chanteymen have appeared at the much heralded Mystic Seaport Sea Music Festival in Mystic, Ct. Surrounded by the tall ships, the chanteymen have gained a reputation for the serious work ethic needed to perform this specialized style of folk music.
Commissioned as Connecticut’s Colonial Navy by the late governor Ella Grasso, the Mariner's list of credits is extensive. Some highlights are the America’s Cup and Gaspee Day balls in Rhode island, Operation Sail in Newport, the "We the People" parade on national television celebrating the bicentennial of the United States constitution, and at the 200th anniversary celebration of George Washington’s inauguration in New York. During these parades, the Mariners passed in review of two United States presidents- Ronald Reagan and George Bush.
Their exploits, have also taken them across the Atlantic ocean to Europe. The Mariners have marched in Dublin, Ireland, the Alsace region of France, and many cities and towns in Switzerland. It was there in 1970 that a brother unit was formed, known as the Swiss Mariners of Basel. They adopted the music and uniform of their us counterpart and became the first American style fife and drum corps based outside the United States. This tradition is alive today, and gives the Mariners the unique distinction as the world's first and only international fife and drum corps. The International Mariners have marched together throughout the northeastern United States, as well as Europe.