The Black Cook (Roberts and Barrand)

See also: The Black Devil (Kenneth Peacock)

A story I'll tell you, it happened last evening,
Of an eminent doctor that lived in Cork town;
By seamen so bold he was fairly outwitted,
And fifty bright guineas he had to lay down.
Three jolly jack tars and their messmates, being groggy,
Their money all spent, and their credit far gone,
From Patrick Street to the quayside they rambled,
They was bent to procure it, their money for fun.

Now the cook of the ship, being one of the party,
A smart lad he was and his color was black;
With wit and contrivents he always was ready,
And soon found the way to get cash in a crack.
Said he to his messmates, "I've heard people talking,
A corpse can be sold very readily here;
So take me alive, wrap me up in your hammock,
And sell me to buy all your whiskey and beer."

The sailors agreed, and accepted the offer,
And away to the house where the doctor did dwell;
And into his ears they boldly did whisper, saying,
"Doctor, we've got a fine corpse here to sell."
"A corpse?" said the doctor, like a man in amazement,
"Oh, where did you get it? Come tell me, I pray.
If you'll bring it here I will buy it quite ready,
And fifty bright guineas to you I will pay."

Well the sailors agreed, and accepted the offer,
And it's back to the ship, oh, they quickly did steer;
Come listen awhile, and pay great attention,
And the rest of the story you quickly shall bear.
They took the black cook, tied him up in his hammock,
But he being a lad both sturdy and strong,
It's under his waistcoat, by way of protection,
He carried a blade about half a yard long.

It's 'round about midnight, the streets were deserted,
The sailors set out with the cook on their back;
And into the house, oh, they boldly did enter,
And in the back room they concealed the poor black.
The doctor soon paid the bold seamen their money,
They told him: "The cook, he had died on the sea,
And rather than have his dead body to bury,
We've sold him to you, sir, now he's out of our way."

Well, the doctor soon went for some knives to dissect him,
And then came downstairs with the tools in his hand;
When he came to the room where the corpse had been lying,
The black stood before him with his cutlass in hand.
The doctor cried out, like one in amazement,
A-thinking the corpse was in very rich prime;
With a voice loud as thunder the black he approached him,
Crying, "Damn your eyes, doctor, I'll dissect you alive!"

Well, the doctor was forced to retreat in a hurry,
And of his late bargain was soon to lament;
And Jack hurried off to where his comrades were drinking,
And the rest of that evening was merrily spent.

####.... Author unknown. Variant of a British broadside ballad, The Black Cook, or The Doctor Outwitted, published by James Lindsay (Glasgow) sometime between 1851 and 1910, and archived at the Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads, shelfmark: 2806 c.14(57) ....####

This arrangement was recorded by John Roberts and Tony Barrand (Across The Western Ocean: Songs From The Era Of The North Atlantic Sailing Packets, Swallowtail Records, ST-03, Cassett 1994, CD 2000).

A similar variant was sung in 1958 by Isaac Freeman Bennett [1896-1984] of St Paul's, NL, and published as The Black Devil by Kenneth Peacock in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Volume 3, pp.856-8, by the National Museum of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

A similar variant was sung in 1951 by Richard T Pennell [1883-?] of Trepassey, NL, and published as #70 The Black in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada © 2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

Another similar variant was a favorite song by Michael Pttman of Merasheen, NL, and published as The Black for the 1980 Merasheen Reunion in Placentia Bay, NL, by Loyola Pomroy and William (Bill) Wilson Jr [1931-1993] of Meerasheen, Placentia Bay, NL.


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