The Banks Of Newfoundland #4 (American)
(The Eastern Light)

See also: The Banks Of Newfoundland:
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#988: YouTube video by J Smith
©2013 ~ Used with permission ~

Most sad was my misfortune
in the year of 'sixty-three,
When I shipped on board the fishing
there caught on a drunken spree;
I shipped on board the Eastern Light
as you might understand;
For to go out on the salty sea
to the Banks of Newfoundland.

Mike Clowie being our skipper's name,
a hero true and bold,
We had twelve other souls on board
besides myself all told;
We hoist up all our canvas when
we left Gloucester port;
And the girls they wove their handkerchiefs
as we sailed out of port.

We brought a jar of rum on board
which mustered all the crew,
We drank a health to the Gloucester girls
in bidding them adieu;
'Twas east-be-south we steered, me b'ys,
the Grand Banks for to find,
We being employed that our fishing gear
some halibut to destroy.

We ranged around those foggy banks
for the space of eighteen days,
We boarded a couple of Frenchmen,
but no brandy could we raise;
My curse on rum and brandy too,
as I oft' times said before,
Sure, I might have lived the sober life,
I might still be ashore.

It's early every morning
our cook up all and bawls,
"Get up and eat your breakfast, b'ys,
and then go haul your trawls."
We scarce get time to light our pipes
when over our dories go,
We've got to make three sets a day
let the wind blow high or low.

And if you lose a mooring,
a buoy line, or a knife,
Indeed, you will be charged with it
and you might bet your life;
And if you come to stand night watch
be sure and stand a bet,
And if anything is missin' there
you'll find it on your check.

On the eighteenth of October
I heard our captain shout:
"Come hoist aboard your dories, b'ys,
and break your anchors out;
Our provisions are getting kind of scarce,
we can no longer stay,
So give her great big mainsail, b'ys,
and get her under way.

Next day our anchor's on our bow,
our ship is homeward bound,
And when we next reach Gloucester port
we'll hand the glasses 'round;
We'll go down to Johnny the lover's and
'tis there we'll spend one night,
And we'll drink a health to the Gloucester girls,
likewise the Eastern Light.

####.... Author unknown. Variant of an American traditional, The Eastern Light [Laws D11] Native American Balladry (G Malcolm Laws, 1964) ....####
Sung by James Rice [1879-1958] of Cape Broyle, NL, and published in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada © 2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

Kenneth Peacock also collected the same song from James Rice in 1951, and published it in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Vol 1, pp.105-106, by The National Museum Of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

Another variant was sung by Billy Wilson of Little Merasheen, Placentia Bay, NL, and published for the 1980 Merasheen Reunion in Placentia Bay, NL, by Loyola Pomroy and William (Bill) Wilson Jr [1931-1993] of Meerasheen, Placentia Bay, NL.

Kenneth Peacock noted that this appears to be an American ballad of New England origin, though the composer could have been a Newfoundlander or Maritimer 'caught on a drunken spree' in Gloucester. Fishermen and seamen of the eastern seaboard are often more familiar with ports hundreds of miles away than they are with places near their own home port. Peacock also noted that Helen Creighton had collected this ballad in Nova Scotia as The Gloucester Fishermen, and a fragment called Song About The Fishing Banks appears in Ballads And Sea Songs Of Newfoundland by Greenleaf and Mansfield.

A variant was recorded by The Dardanelles (The Eastern Light trk#4, 2011, recorded by Don Ellis at Fat Track Studios in St John's, NL, mixed by Jim Cooley at Compass Studios in Nashville, TN, and mastered by Jason Whelan at The Sound Solution in St John's, NL).

The video above features a performance by The Dardanelles on the BBC ALBA (Scotland) - "Horo Gheallaidh" in Glasgow, UK, 2013.

Horo Gheallaidh - Gaelic for a sing-song, an uproar, or a bit of a knees-up.

Per the Digital Tradition: The Eastern Light, 70 tons, was built in 1866, and owned by Maddocks and Company of Gloucester, MA.


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