Cotton's Patch - sung by the Aussie pilot
(Johnny Burke)

See also: Cotton's Patch - sung by the sealer
(Johnny Burke)

Oh, quite early in March, I remember the date,
We left for the ice for the seals to locate;
We flew 'round Cape Francis and near Baccalieu,
But nothing that morning came into my view.

We flew to the Wadhams and then to King's Bight,
And oh, such a scene, I fell down with the fright;
I took up the glass and my eye it do catch,
Some thousands of seals
that they call the main patch.

We got in our plane and then homeward we flew,
We saw Mr Bowring and did interview:
"Did the main patch you strike,
are you certain?" says he,
But "mum" was the word from Sid Bennet and me.

"If you want to find out
you must pay through the nose,
And we scrammed with the cold
and our fists nearly froze;
After flying all day over oceans of ice,
If you want information you must pay the price."

"Then what is the figure for making the flight,
I suppose a few shillings will pay you all right."
I said, "Ten thousand dollars to go through the gap,
That let's you down easy, you're getting a snap."

The merchants assembled, the great Board of Trade,
And ten cents a seal was the price that they paid,
For every seal that the tally-man gave,
And so far we haven't the price of a shave.

So now, Newfoundlanders, you boast and you brag,
Killing seals, by the fire all day chewing the rag;
All your lives to the ice and you know every batch,
When I, from Australia, must find the main patch.

####.... Johnny Burke [1851-1930] of St John's, NL, 1922 ....####
Published in Burke's Ballads, pp.14-15, c.1960, compiled by John White and archived at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Libraries, Centre For Newfoundland Studies - Digitized Books collection.

See more songs by Johnny Burke

From De-Burking Johnny Burke, an Excluded Canadian Troubadour by Paul Mathew St Pierre:
Cotton's Patch - burlesque of Major Sydney Cotton's attempt to locate the main patch of seals off the Atlantic coast.

Excerpted from Botwood Aviation:
Sydney Cotton - during 1921-1922, Australian-born Major Sydney Cotton [1894-1969] and Newfoundland-born Captain Sydney Bennett [1897-1945] established the first facilities for aircraft at Botwood, in North Central Newfoundland as headquarters for Cotton's Aerial Survey Company. Newfoundland's first premier, Joseph R Smallwood took his first airplane flight with Major Cotton, flying over St John's on January 22, 1922 along with Albert B Perlin, the editor of the Daily News of St John's, and one of his reporters named Walsh. Cotton was the first to spot seals from an aircraft and by 1923 had a small air fleet operating from his base in Botwood. That same year he liquidated his company when the government failed to grant the support he sought and his facilities fell into disuse. By August 1923, he was in New York with $25,000 cash, looking for a new challenge.

From the Dictionary of Newfoundland English:
Main Patch - principal concentration of harp and hooded seals on the ice-floes for whelping.
Scrammed - stiff, benumbed with cold; chilled.
Tally-Man - man employed by fish merchant or sealing firm to keep record of salted cod, seal pelts, etc, handled.


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