Who Put The Herring On The Booze?
(Johnny Burke)

The Nerissa from the Red Cross Line
from Harvey's wharf did sail,
While pantry stewards and passengers
were leaning o'er the rail;
And as she cut out through the gap,
while slowly she did go,
They little thought the herrings
had a corking time below.

I wish I was a herring, boys,
if only for that trip,
Not trying to beg a nickel,
and I dying for a nip;
And herrings saturated, boys,
with Old Tom and foxy rum,
While us poor devils in the town
a drink is trying to bum.

With five hundred barrels of herring
in the Red Cross Liner's hold,
Just worth a million dollars
when the whiskey is all sold;
But the cute New York detectives
never saw the like before,
When a barrel fell from off the slings
and scattered on the floor.

When they opened up the barrels,
sure they found in every tier,
A keg of Old Scotch Whisky
and the herrings on the beer.
So we read on Friday morning
in the Telegram and the News,
How five hundred barrels of herring
were arrested on the booze.

Now who shipped the two-eyed beef steaks,
he must have a scalded heart,
And a million gone to blazes,
sure he got the devil's dart;
He won't put herrings on the beer
for this gave him a check,
For trying to smuggle in New York
he got it in the neck.

We heard of fellows on a time
a drink is trying to bum,
We heard of tars some years ago
off Nelson drank the rum;
But we never heard of herrings
buying whisky by the keg,
And land in New York City
with five hundred on the jag.

They didn't come from Halifax,
for that they did deny,
They didn't come from Newfoundland,
so much they can't supply;
To tell the one who shipped the booze,
some bare-faced brazen pup,
Do you give up, Mr Johnson,
yes, we all give it up.

####.... Johnny Burke [1851-1930] of St John's, NL, 1928 ....####

Published in Burke's Ballads, pg.7, 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 the Dictionary of Newfoundland English:
Foxy Rum - light-coloured or amber rum.
Gap - narrow, precipitous entrance to a harbour; the Narrows of St John's.

Found in the 1880 Glossary Of Words In Use In Cornwall by Miss M A Courtney:
Two-Eyed Beef-Steak - herring.

From Wikipedia:
Old Tom - lightly sweetened Gin popular in 18th-century England. The name Old Tom Gin purportedly came from wooden plaques shaped like a black cat (an Old Tom) mounted on the outside wall of some pubs above a public walkway in the 1700s England. After a pedestrian deposited a penny in the cat's mouth, they would place their lips around a small tube between the cat's paws. From the tube would come a shot of Gin, poured there by the bartender inside the pub.
SS Nerissa - final ship built for the St John's, Newfoundland, Bowring Brothers Red Cross Line with service between St John's, New York and Halifax, Nova Scotia. Due to the arduous winter conditions expected on her routes, Nerissa was designed with a strengthened hull and an icebreaker style sloping stern to cope with ice floes. She was built in five months in time for the 1926 sailing season by the shipbuilding company William Hamilton & Company Ltd in Port Glasgow, Scotland. The Red Cross Line relied mainly on American tourist traffic which was much affected by the Depression. By 1927, Bowring decided to abandon the service, and the Line along with its three ships Nerissa, Rosalind, and Silvia was sold at the end of 1928 to Furness Withy, a major British transport business (1891-1980). The ships then became part of the Bermuda & West Indies Steamship Co Ltd. The Nerissa continued on the New York, Halifax and St John's route until 1931 when she was switched to the New York to Bermuda run and also made voyages to Trinidad and Demerara. Modified and pressed into wartime service in 1939, the SS Nerissa was torpedoed and sunk off Ireland on 30 April 1941 by German submarine U-552 following 39 wartime voyages between Canada and Britain. She was the only transport carrying Canadian troops to be lost during the Second World War. The British destroyer HMS Veteran picked up 84 survivors, but an estimated 124 passengers and 83 crew were killed.



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