The Terra Nova Regatta (Johnny Burke)

See also: Regatta (MacEdward Leach)

Oh, a day that's held most dear
by everyone that's here,
By Terra Nova's sons and daughters;
In the graveyard just ahead
they are sleeping with the dead,
The hardy boys who often rowed those waters.

We remember well the year
when the Prince of Wales came here,
And a picked crew from the Hero
came to face us;
But before they turned the stake
they were beaten half the lake,
By our Fishermen who rowed them at the races.

Yes, boys, sure, boys, fait you've all been there,
To see the pretty girls and smiling faces;
And it's many a city dude got paralyzed and slewed,
In Betsy Colbert's tent down at the races.

Oh, it's many a night I spent
putting up Jane Kenney's tent,
And a jar of whiskey always in a corner;
And sure Jane, poor thing, made bold
when she felt a little cold,
To take a mouthful, boys, just to warm her.

And myself was no way shy
for to wet the other eye,
And towards the afternoon for home I faces;
And it's many and many a load
I slept off on the road,
The morning of the Terra Nova races.

Yes, boys, sure, boys, and you all were there,
To see the bouncing girls with flowers and vases;
And it's many a cute maneen
got well oiled off on the green,
The morning of the Terra Nova races.

Where the tents are in full swing
and the music sweetly ring,
And the boiled crubeens upon the dishes slopin';
Where the figgy duffs are seen
that would sink a brigantine,
Or would gap a Yankee hatchet trying to open.

Where the rum and ginger beer
your poor sinking heart would cheer,
You would never lose your head
but take things coolly;
And the whiskey is so mild
you can give it to a child,
Sure they call it lemonade at Ballyhooly.

Yes, boys, fait, boys, everyone was there,
To see the rows and fights with some hard cases;
And it's many a time Ben Cox
had to heel it in his socks,
The evening of the Terra Nova races.

Coming on towards the afternoon
we would heel it pretty soon,
On the platform for the merry dance adorning;
From a squeaky violin he would cry out,
'Ladies in!'
Sure I often held the platform till the morning.

Out in hornpipes, jigs and reel,
oh how happy I would feel,
And the girls and boys would laugh
with smiling faces;
Sure I danced all day or night
with a girl that had one eye,
Ah, says I, the dickens odds 'tis at the races.

####.... Johnny Burke [1851-1930] of St John's, NL ....####
Published in Burke's Ballads, p.34, 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.

A variant was sung in 1950 by Morris Houlihan [1885-?] of Flatrock, NL, and published as Regatta in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada © 2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

From Canada's Digital Collections:
The Royal St John's Regatta - has been a part of Newfoundland history for over two centuries. It is the oldest and probably one of the most celebrated annual sporting events in North America. The first recorded documentation of an organized event taking place is in 1818, but historians believe that rowing matches were taking place among ship's crews in St John's Harbour since at least the 1700's. The Royal St John's Regatta Committee referred to its official start date as 1818. It has been known to draw a crowd of up to 50,000 people annually to the shores of Quidi Vidi Lake. Having very close ties to the Monarchy has been a source of great pride for those involved with the Regatta. The Regatta has been visited by members of the Royal Family, including His Royal Highness Prince Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward) in 1860. The Prince arrived on the vessel HMS Hero and offered one hundred pounds to the winners of the Fisherman's Race. HMS Hero was a screw-propelled 91-gun second rate, launched in 1858 and sold in 1871, and was the vessel in which the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) sailed on his 1860 tour of Canada and the United States.

HMS Hero

From the Dictionary of Newfoundland English:
Crubeens - pig's feet, especially the hocks prepared for food by pickling.
Figgy Duff - pudding containing raisins boiled in a cloth.
Maneen - boy who apes to be a man; bold youth; adolescent boy trying to act the part of a man.
Terra Nova (New Land) - northeast coast of North America and its adjacent islands, notably the large island situated at the entrance to the Gulf of St Lawrence; Newfoundland.

From Like Ads:
Dickens Odds - disparity in number, amount, or quality; inequality; amount of disparity or difference. Now rare.

Added noted by GEST:
¹Fait - from the French: actually; in fact; (used here as a sentence modifier to add slight emphasis).
²Ballyhooly - County Cork, site of the oldest regatta in Ireland.


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