The Sealing Trip Of The S.S. Greenland, 1891 (with lyrics)
All ye who love old Newfoundland and her sons who plough the sea,
'Mid summers' suns and winters' snows so bold and fearlessly,
Please pay attention for a while and I will sing to you,
A song about the Greenland and her hardy sealing crew.
We're just arrived at Harbour Grace from the southern white-coat patch,
The hold with oily pelts is stowed chock up to every hatch;
We were the first to strike them, a fact, deny who can,
And not a ball was chewed for us by our sister ship the Van.
When the Captain left the bridge today and on the wharf did stand,
Full many were the friends he met and shook his greasy hand;
He's a hardy Newfoundlander, Henry Dawe it is his name,
And he is a bold commander when on the raging main.
On the morning of the tenth of March from the offing of Greenspon',
To get her links in motion it did not take us long;
And Freddy was so anxious to see that all was right,
He went 'round her like a paper man till twelve o'clock that night.
Our pumps were in good order, the condenser it was clean,
The pistons worked like magic and were well supplied with steam;
We were all in good condition to face the northern jam,
And to keep the head position the chief rove every man.
The Captain wore a smile that day upon his handsome face,
And he says, "Those Dundee Greyhounds, boys, for us will have to chase;
So loose your topsails, for and aft, to catch the sou'west wind,
And down off the Grey Islands the seals we'll surely find."
A family of hoods was first on us to make a call,
And on the evening of the twelfth we heard a white coat bawl;
Then next morning very early, full equipped was every man,
With spirits right, soon as 'twas light, the seals commenced to pan.
The slaughter then was dreadful, 'tis useless to describe,
From east to west for miles around, the ice was crimson dyed;
Sharp knives and bats did deadly work, and when the day was done,
Twice seven thousand sculps were flagged beneath the setting sun.
And, mind me, Captain Harry never swore upon his crew,
He knew their sterling value and their duty they would do;
And when the ship was loaded, and we were homeward bound,
At the calling of the roll each man turned up both safe and sound.
And as we neared the harbour bar we steamed her slowly in,
With her colors gaily flying and as deep as she could swim;
And people gathered on the wharf from every street and lane,
To welcome back the sealers from off the stormy main.
And now we're home for Easter, at the hop we'll swing the girls,
With their neat wire form improvers and Dolly Varden curls;
Nice folks may perhaps laugh at, but they don't understand,
That the boys in oily jumpers are the pride of Newfoundland.
And now three cheers for Captain Dawe and long may he command,
A gallant ship and hardy crew from dear old Newfoundland;
And I hope success he'll always get when in the northern seas,
And may his big jib always draw, filled with a moderate breeze.
####.... Traditional Newfoundland song composed by an unknown member of the S.S. Greenland crew ....####
Printed in St. John's in 1925 on pp.8-12 of Songs Sung By Old Time Sealers Of Many Years Ago, published by James Murphy [1867-1931].
Also published in the Harbour Grace Standard, Harbour Grace, 1891.
Note: The S.S. Greenland was built in Ireland in 1872. Captain Henry Dawe of Ship Cove, Port de Grave was commander of the S.S. Ranger in 1898, when the crew of the S.S. Greenland was stranded on the ice while sealing and perished. See: The Greenland Disaster by Figgy Duff, with video.
Offing - ¹ the more distant part of the sea seen from the shore, beyond the anchoring ground; ² position at a distance from shore.
From the Dictionary Of Newfoundland English:
Bats - clubs or gaffs for killing or stunning seals.
Harbour Bar - bay or harbour protected, or sometimes with the entrance obstructed, by a sand-bar or shingle beach.
Hoods - large migratory seals (Cystophora cristata) which do not congregate closely like the harp seals, but are found scattered and in families.
Jam - impenetrable, tightly-packed field of salt-water floe-ice.
Pan - floating field of Arctic ice.
Rove - wander, stray, reeve; to wander about, as in anger.
Sculps - skins of harp or hooded seals with the blubbers attached; pelts.
White-coat - young harp seal with white fur.
Dolly Varden - style of flashy and colorful dressing popular in the late 19th century taken from the name of a flirtatious character in the historical novel Barnaby Rudge by British novelist Charles Dickens.
Greenspon' (Greenspond) - one of the oldest continuously inhabited outports in Newfoundland, having been settled in the 1690s. The community thrived and became a major trading centre because of its proximity to and its position on the main sea lanes, and was known as the "Capital of the North". The community's advantageous location, in the path of the northern ice floe, enabled land-based hunters using guns and nets to capture seals. By the early 19th century the seal hunt had become an important part of life at Greenspond. Historian Judge D.W. Prowse reported that in 1860, 18 vessels, each with a crew of about 20 men, prosecuted the seal hunt out of Greenspond. Because most of the crews and sealing captains were drawn from Greenspond and neighbouring communities, sealing ships would leave St. John's and Conception Bay in the fall of the year and anchor in Greenspond Tickle until spring when the hunt would begin. There was great pride in the accomplishment of local sealing captains.
Grey Islands - two islands, Bell Island and Groais Island, located off Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula to the east in the Atlantic Ocean. Largest of them is the southern Bell Island with an area of 88 km². The islands are hilly, rising to over 152 meters (500 ft). The village of Grey Islands Harbour is situated at the southern end of Bell Island.
Harbour Grace - town in Conception Bay on the Avalon Peninsula. With roots dating back to the sixteenth century, it is one of the oldest towns in North America, located about 45 km northwest of the provincial capital, St. John's, and had a 2006 population of 3,074, engaged primarily in fishing and fish processing. The alternative spelling Harbor Grace was current at one time.
Jumpers - loose outer jackets, especially ones worn by workers and sailors.
From Schooner Vocabulary:
Jib - triangular foresail in front of the foremast. It is said that a schooner can get out of almost any difficulty as long as the big jib holds out.