Wadham's Song (R N Wadham) MIDI, video
#1318: YouTube video by threelegsoman
©2010 ~ Used with permission ~

midi file   alt: midi file

(To tune of I'll Tell Me Ma. See notes below)

From Bonavista Cape to the Stinking¹ Isles,
The course is north full forty miles
When you must swing away northeast
Till Cape Freel's Gull Island bears nor'-nor'west.

Then nor'-nor'west thirty-three miles,
Three leagues off shore lies Wadham's Isles
Where of a rock you must take care;
Two miles sou'-sou'east from Isles it bear.

Then nor'west by west twelve miles or more,
There lies Round Head on Fogo's shore;
But nor'-nor'west seven or eight miles,
Lies a sunken rock near Barrack's Isles.

Therefore, my friend, I would you advise,
Since all these rocks in danger lies,
That you may never amongst them fall,
But keep your luff and weather them all.

As you draw near to the Fogo land,
You'll have fifteen fathoms in the sounding sand,
From fifteen to eighteen, never more,
And that you'll have close to the shore.

When you abreast of Round Head be,
Then Joe Batt's Point you'll plainly see;
To starboard then three or four miles,
You'll see a parcel of damned rugged isles.

When Joe Batt's Arm you are abreast,
Fogo Harbour bears due west;
But unkind fortune unluck laid
A sunken² rock right in the trade.

So, nor-nor'west you are to steer,
Till Brimstone Head doth appear,
Which over Pilley's Point you'll see
That of that danger you are free.

And as you draw within a mile,
You'll see a house³ on Symes's Isle;
The mouth of the channel is not very wide,
But the deepest water is on the larboard side.

When within Symes's Point you have shot,
Then three fathoms of water you have got;
Port hard your hellum and take care,
In the mid-channel for to steer.

When Pilley's Point you are abreast,
Starboard haul, and steer sou'-sou'west
Till Pilley's Point covers Syme's stage;
Then you are clear, I will engage.

####.... R N Wadham, 1756 ....####
Published in Gerald S Doyle's Old Time Songs And Poetry Of Newfoundland: Songs Of The People From The Days Of Our Forefathers (First edition, pp.35-37, 1927; Fourth edition, p.70, 1966).

Gerald Doyle noted that this song: "was called after the author who wrote it in the year 1756. Thousands of fishermen may remember hearing short snatches of the song, but it is doubtful if a dozen Newfoundlanders can recite it as it is recorded here. It was placed on record in the Admiralty's Court in London, and was considered the best coasting guide for that part of our Island home to which it refers."

An earlier variant was printed in 1905 on pp.22-24 of Murphy's Sealers' Song Book , in 1925 on pp.15-16 of Songs Sung By Old Time Sealers Of Many Years Ago, and in 1923 on p.14-15 of Songs Their Fathers Sung, For Fishermen: Old Time Ditties; all three were published in St John's by James Murphy [1867-1931], who noted the following:
¹ Stinking Isles - Cabot Isles.
² a sunken rock - Dean's Rock.
³ house on Syme's Isle - no longer standing.

From the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, volume 3, p.668, 1991, Harry Cuff Publications Ltd, St John's, NL:
"Musical notation was not provided with the text so there is no information pertaining to the actual tune."

On the other hand, the Renaissance Dance site claims "Pilot verses were sailing directions sung to popular tunes ... Hugill [apparently not in Shanties from the Seven Seas] quotes [Wadham's Song] to the tune of I'll Tell Me Ma, which is still well known."

From the Dictionary Of Newfoundland English:
Stage - elevated platform ashore with working tables, sheds, etc, where fish are landed and processed for salting and drying, and fishing gear and supplies are stored; fishing stage.

The video above features an excellent 12-string guitar performance of a variant by Tony Archibald from Port St Mary on the Isle of Man.


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