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Wiltshire Community History

Folk Song Information

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Book TitleAuthorDateNotes
Song TitleWhale fishers
Roud No.347
Collected FromHaydon, Shadrach [Shepherd]
Collected ByWilliams, Alfred
Alternative Title
Source PrimaryWSRO: 2598/36 Packet 2 - Oxfordshire: Williams, A: MS collection No Ox 200
Source SecondaryWilts and Gloucestershire Standard, 8th April,1916, p 3, Part 26, No. 5
Song Lyrics
Verse 1

In eighteen hundred and twenty one,
On the twenty third of May,
We hoisted our colours to our topmast head,
And for Greenland bore away.

Verse 2

When we came unto Greenland,
Our ship we were forced to mend,
For the heavy waves fell on her side,
And stripped it from end to end.

Verse 3

Our captain stood on the quarterdeck -
A very good man was he:
"Overhaul, overhaul. Let your heavy tackle fall,
And launch your boats for sea."

Verse 4

The boat was launched and the hands jumped in,
The whale fish appeared in view,
And it was resolved by the whole of us,
To steer where the whale fish blew.

Verse 5

The spear being launched, and the line paid out,
She gave a lash with her tail,
She capsized the boat and we lost five men,
And we did not catch that whale.

Verse 6

Now Greenland is a barren place,
Neither night nor day to be seen,
But cold ice and snow, and the whale fish to blow,
And daylight seldom seen.
Print Song Lyrics
Note 1

Williams, Alfred: Ms / WGS: 'The Whale Fishers is interesting as showing the range of subject possessed by the old ballad writers. They had an eye for everything, and found means to compose a song upon every adventure of activity. Copy obtained of Shadrach Haydon, Bampton, Oxfordshire.'

Note 2

Elsewhere Haydon is described as from Hatford and Lyford, Berkshire.

Note 3

In WGS there is an additional verse after Verse 2:

Verse 3

"Here's a whale, here's a whale," cries the bold fisherman,
As he glanced over the side,
And to catch that great whale, brave boys,
We instantly did try.

The original of the microfilmed newspaper in the History Centre is damaged. My thanks to the staff of the British Library Newspaper Library at Colindale for their assistance in completing the above verse.

There are also several amendments to the verses inserted by Williams.

In Verse 1, line 2 the original reads:

On March the twenty third.

In Verse 2, line 3 the original reads:

For the heavy waves fell on the deck

Verse 4, line 2 the original reads:

And the whale fish appeared in view

Verse 4 Line 4 the WGS text is:

And daylight is seldom seen.

In Verse 5, line 1 the original reads:

The boat being launched, and the line paid out.

In Verse 6, line 1 the original reads:

Now Greenland is in a barren place.

Transcribed and edited by Chris Wildridge, 2010.



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