Culling Fish (Kenneth Peacock)

One morning in August the sun it did shine,
To ship some dried cod-fish we all fell in line;
At first we were saying, "Where will we go?"
When at last we decided we'd ship to Monroe.

We took in twelve quintals, for the plant we did steer,
It was rather surprising when we arrived there;
We tied up to the pier when the weather changed dull,
There were men standing idle and no one to cull.

We went to the super when arrangements were made,
To send for the culler to test out the grade;
We got the bars ready, the board and the stand,
When Alfred appeared, a sworn-in man.

He stood to his post like a soldier on guard,
While Stewart kept saying it's dried fine and hard;
"Oh, yes," he replied, pressing finger and thumb,
"In Jim Rose's day this would pass 'number one'."

But the cull now is stricter and the Portuguese claim,
There is one grade of codfish that's bad for the brain;
So according to instructions and the outline in view,
There's no 'number one' so must go number two'.
If you happen to find 'one' you can place it in a frame,
But don't tell the cullers or you'll give away the game.

####.... Chris Cobb ....####

Collected in 1952 by Kenneth Peacock from the composer, Christopher Theodore (Chris) Cobb [1897-1968] of Barr'd Islands, Fogo, NL, and published in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Vol 1, pp.118-119, by The National Museum Of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

Kenneth Peacock noted that this is one of many songs Chris Cobb dashed off for the amusement and education of his friends and neighbours. It offers outsiders an intimate glimpse into one of the many vicissitudes encountered by a cod-fish before it arrives at the supermarket. A culler is the man who decides under oath ('a sworn-in man') what grade the dried fish is. Apparently the Portuguese had been complaining about the poor quality so the grading regulations had to be tightened; so much so, in fact, that a grade A 'number one' fish is rare enough to be worth framing. Peacock further noted that a quintal (pronounced 'kentle') is a hundred-weight (112) pounds).


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