Captains and Ships
DESCRIPTION: "To Harvey's I'll start and to Bowring's I'll go, I'll name all the ships and the captains also." He names ships, captains, and companies, and wishes them all good luck.
EARLIEST DATE: 1951 (Peacock; MUNFLA/Leach); see NOTES
KEYWORDS: moniker commerce fishing sea ship work nonballad
FOUND IN: Canada(Newf)
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Doyle3, p. 19, "Captains and Ships" (1 text, 1 tune)
Peacock, pp. 865-866, "Captains and Ships" (1 text, 1 tune)
Blondahl, pp. 97-98, "Captains and Ships" (1 text, 1 tune)
Ryan/Small, pp. 76-77, "Captains and Ships" (1 text, 1 tune)
ST Doyl3019 (Partial)
Jim Rice, "Ships and Captains" (on MUNFLA/Leach)
cf. "Some Ships in Port" (catalog of ships)
NOTES [2473 words]: The amount of detail in this song is immense, and clearly shows detailed knowledge of the the sealing expedition in some particular year. Although it has no explicit date references, the ships mentioned allow us to date it without much hesitation to 1910.
Harvey's and Bowring's, mentioned in the first verse, were companies that commissioned sealers; so was Job's, mentioned in the third verse. Bowring's was the largest and longest-lived of the bunch.
I suspect but cannot prove that the Ad is the Adventure, for which see "I Am a Newfoundlander." There was no sealing captain named "Doyle" (see list on Chafe, p. 97); I strongly suspect this is an error of hearing for Captain Henry Dawe of Bay Roberts, who commanded the Adventure 1906-1910. For this Henry Dawe, see especially "The Sealer's Song (II)."
The Belle is probably the Bellaventure, which was commanded by Job Knee from 1909-1913 (Chafe, p. 98). Job/Jobie/Joby Knee is also mentioned in "The Sealer's Song (II)." The Bellaventure was part of the sealing fleet from 1909 to 1915; she is probably most famous for being the ship that rescued most of the survivors of the Newfoundland Disaster of 1914 (for which see "The Newfoundland Disaster (I)").
Similarly, I would guess the Bon is the Bonaventure. She was commanded by John Parsons 1909-1914 (Chafe, p. 98), which is every year she went to the ice except 1915, when she was captained by Robert A. Bartlett (both Bartlett and the Bonaventure are also mentioned in the "Ballad of Bob Bartlett, Arctic Explorer"). In 1913, she hit the Beothic, also mentioned in this song as well as in "Success to the Hardy Sealers." The Bonaventure was able to proceed on her way, but the Beothic was crippled and barely survived (O'Neill, p. 984; there is a picture of the two ships together on p. 39 of Ryan/Drake. The collision and its aftermath at least forced ships to stop trying to race each other out of St. John's harbour; Candow, p. 58). The Bonaventure was sold to Russia in 1915-1916 (Greene, p. 278).
John Parsons (1868-1949) is also mentioned in "The Sealer's Song (II)." He was a businessman from Bay Roberts; the family business lasted until 1979. He was aso active in politics, and spent his last years unsuccessfully opposing Confederation with Canada (Tarver, p. 229). His first command was in the Newfoundland in 1906, followed by the Bonaventure. He did not command a steamer in 1915 or 1916, but when he came back in 1917, he took more than 21,000 pelts in the Erik. He commanded the Erik in 1918 also, then switched to the Diana. (Chafe, p. 94). He was the captain who lost the Diana in 1922 (for this incident, see "Arrival of Aurora,' 'Diana,' 'Virginia Lake,' and 'Vanguard,' Loaded"). His last command was the Terra Nova in 1929 and 1931 (Ryan, p. 500).
The Newfoundland is one of five ships in the song commanded by a member of the extended Kean family. The various Keans in the song are without doubt confused by oral transmission. Abram Kean, the patriarch of the family (for whom see "Captain Abram Kean") is not mentioned in the song, and his oldest son Joseph/Joe Kean, the oldest (and probably the best and most famous) son of Abram Kean, is mentioned twice, as master of the Erik and the Eagle. And there are other Keans in charge of the Florizel, Iceland, and Newfoundland.
In fact Abram Kean, who had commanded a great many ships in his career, commanded the Florizel 1909-1911 before shifting to the Stephano in 1912 (Chafe, p. 92); Joe Kean commanded the Eagle from 1907 to 1911, inheriting the Florizel from his father in 1912-1914 (he would later die in the wreck of that ship); Job Kean (for whom see also the notes to "Lukey's Boat"; he was the nephew of Abram Kean, and later married Virtue Hann, presumably related to George Hann; Kean, pp. 22-23) commanded the Erik from 1902 to 1913 (Chafe, p. 93). The only Kean to command the Iceland was Edwin Kean, who was her commander in 1909-1910; she was lost in the latter year (Chafe, pp. 100-101; there is a photo of her burning in the ice on p. 81 of Ryan/Drake), and the Iceland was his only command. Jacob Kean commanded the Newfoundland in 1910, then Westbury Kean took her out in 1911-1914 (Chafe, p. 103); for Westbury, it was his first command, and for reasons explained in "The Newfoundland Disaster (I)," he would not get another until after World War I.
Abram Kean had six sons and a huge flock of nephews, but no Kean who was a ship captain was named "Evan." One of Abram's nephews was Edwin Kean, who did well as a fisherman, but the only sealer he commanded was the Iceland in 1909-1910; he lost the ship in the latter year (Chafe, p. 93; Kean, p. 22). Therefore I suspect that the song should be emended to put Abram Kean, rather than Evan Kean, in charge of the Florizel, "Jolly Wes Kean" in the Newfoundland, Job Kean in charge of the Erik, (Ed) Kean in the Iceland, and Joe Kean in the Eagle.
The mention of the Florizel in that list is the single most obvious date peg in the song. The Florizel, which is the subject of "The Wreck of the Steamship Florizel," was built in 1909, so her earliest trip was presumably in 1910. She was sunk in 1918, before the seal harvest of that year.
For the Newfoundland, captained by "jolly gay Kean," i.e. Westbury Kean, see "The Newfoundland Disaster (I)." Wes Kean commanded the Newfoundland (his first command) from 1911 to 1914, the year of the Disaster. The Newfoundland survived the horror that killed so many of her sailors, but she was sold in the next year, and renamed the Samuel Blandford (after a famous sealing captain; see "Sealer's Song (I)") in 1916, so her mention forces us to the years before that.
The Florizel's much larger sister Stephano, built 1911 and mentioned in "Success to the Hardy Sealers," is not mentioned in this song. This does not absolutely prove that she was not in commission, but the Stephano usually went to the ice under one of the Captains Kean, the patriarch Abram Kean (for whom see "Captain Abram Kean") and his several sons. The song mention various Keans, sailing in the Newfoundland, the Eric, the Iceland, the Florizel, and the Eagle. That's a lot of older, lesser ships with Keans aboard. This is strong evidence that the lyrics predate the Stephano. To be sure, the Stephano was sunk in World War I, so it's just possible that the year could be after 1917, after her loss, but only if many other lost ships were resurrected.
The Iceland was built in Dundee, and first went to the ice in 1872. She went through several owners before being destroyed in 1910, with her crew rescued by the Eagle (Ryan/Drake, p. 16). Apparently little is known about what caused her end. She is also mentioned in "The Sealer's Song (II)"; Ryan/Drake have a picture on p. 16. A portion of another poem about her on p. 309 of Ryan; this says that she was the last sealer to sail from Harbour Grace rather than St. John's.
The Diana, built in 1870 as the Hector, was given her name in 1889, sold in 1918, and sank in 1922; for more details, see "Arrival of 'Aurora,' 'Diana,' 'Virginia Lake,' and 'Vanguard,' Loaded." Her skipper Joe Blandford seems to be mentioned only here, but see the ship Samuel Blandford above. Joe Blandford commanded the Diana from 1909 to 1912; it was the only sealer he ever commanded (Chafe, p. 89).
George Barbour commanded the Beothic 1909-1911 (Chafe, p. 88); for his career, see especially "The Greenland Disaster (I)." The Beothic went to the ice only in 1909-1912 plus 1914-1915 (as mentioned above, she had a collision in 1913); William C. Winsor commanded her in 1912, 1914, and 1915 (Chafe, p. 98). She is also mentioned in "Success to the Hardy Sealers."
There were two ships Neptune which sailed from Newfoundland; for one of them, see "Neptune, Ruler of the Sea." The one in this song must have been the second, which made her first sealing voyage in 1888 and lasted until 1943 (Feltham, pp. 93, 97) ; she was commanded by Alpheus Barbour (for whom see "The Sealer's Song (II)") 1909-1911 and Robert Bartlett 1912-1913.
The ship here called the Erik is also mentioned in "The Sealer's Song (II)." There is disagreement about her name; O'Neill, pp. 972, 978, calls her the Eric, but this is almost certainly an error; Chafe, Greene, Galgay/McCarthy, and Feltham call her Erik. She was built at Dundee in 1865 (Feltham, p. 51), and was transferred to Newfoundland ownership in 1901; she became a sealer in 1902 (Feltham, p. 52). She was captained by Job Kean from 1902 to 1913 (Feltham, p. 52), and by Nathan(iel) Kean in 1916. She broke a propeller shaft in 1908 but was repaired (Feltham, p. 53).
After the 1918 sealing season, Erik went back to other work (as most sealers did in the off season), and was commanded by a captain named Lane who was not a sealer (Galgay/McCarthy, p. 65). She was hauling coal when she was overtaken by a U-boat on August 25, 1918 (Feltham, p. 55; Galgay/McCarthy, pp. 67-69; O'Neill, p. 978). Despite the late stage of the war, the U-boat's actions toward her crew were extremely polite (one guesses that he realized that he faced little threat from an ancient wooden sealer!); although he shelled the Erik to make her stop, he did not torpedo her. And, once she stopped, the boat's medic actually treated the wounded. Since there were no working lifeboats left, the sub put a bomb aboard the Erik and took the crew to another ship (Feltham, pp. 55-56; Galgay/McCarthy, pp. 69-70).
There is a photo of the Erik on p. 30 of Ryan/Drake.
The Bloodhound (the second of that name) is also mentioned in "The Sealers's Song (II)." She lasted from 1873 to 1917, and was commanded by a Winsor (not "Windsor") for much of this period -- William Winsor Jr. in 1907-1908, Jacob Winsor in 1909-1911, Jesse Winsor in 1913-1914 (George Clarke captained her in 1912). I would guess "Gate Windsor" is an error for "Jake Winsor." For the Winsor clan, see "First Arrival from the Sea Fishery S. S. Fogota, 1912."
In "The Sealer's Song (II)," which also mentions the Bloodhound, her captain is listed as "Bill Windsor." As "Bill Winsor" (the correct spelling) he is mentioned in "Capt. Frederick Harris and the Grates Cove Seal Killers of 1915."
Walter Baine Grieve (1850-1921) was a leader of the company Baine, Johnson & Co, which in 1863 had brought the first steamer (the original Bloodhound) to Newfoundland (O'Neill, pp. 915-916). His political history was somewhat dubious; I'm surprised there is no hint of that in the song.
The Cross is probably the Southern Cross, which vanished in the storm of 1914 that also killed so many men of the Newfoundland (O'Neill, p. 974); see "The Southern Cross (I)." She was commanded by John Clarke in 1910-1913 and by George Clarke in 1914, when she was lost (Chafe, p. 104). John Clarke's only other command was the Diana in 1915; George's, the Bloodbound in 1912.
Baxter Barbour, here listed as the commander of the Labrador, was lost on the Dunelm in 1915; see the notes to "The Nimrod's Song." He commanded the Labrador in 1909-1910. The Labrador is mentioned also in "The Sealer's Song (II)" and "Success to the Hardy Sealers." She had sailed under George Hann (1850-1942) from her first trip in 1896 until 1908. Barbour took her for two years, then D. Martin commanded her from 1911 until her loss in 1913 (Chafe, p. 101). She doesn't seem to have been very successful; only once did she take more than 20,000 seals, and only three times more than 15,000; she took less than 7,000 in Barbour's two years.
There does not seem to have been a sealer names Louise, and there was no sealing captain named "Crosbie"; rather, Crosbie was a shipping company and outfitter of sealing ships. Probably the line should refer to the Harlaw instead of the Louise, for reasons explained below. The Harlaw, unlike many of the other sealers mentioned in the song, may not have been very familiar to Newfoundland singers. She had a relatively short career as a sealer, going to the ice under D. A. Scott 1896-1903 and under J. Farquhar in 1910, and averaging less than 7000 seals per year (Chafe, p. 100), so she wouldn't have been famous.
The Kite is mentioned in more sealing songs than almost any other ship; for more about her, see "The 'Kite' Abandoned in White Bay." She sailed every year from 1877 to 1914, then made one last sealing voyage in 1918 and was lost later in that year (Chafe, p. 101; Feltham, p. 83). William Carroll was her captain from 1909 to 1912 (Chafe, p. 101); she was the only ship he ever commanded.
The Eagle (one of two ships of that name) was built in 1902 and lasted until 1950, when she was scuttled; for more about her, see "The Ice-Floes," as well as the notes on the Kean family above.
The Viking was built in 1881 and acquired by Bowring's, presumably for sealing, in 1904 (O'Neill, p. 968); it blew up in 1931; see "To the Memory of the Late Captain Kennedy." The "Captain Bartlett" of the song is not Robert Bartlett, known from "Captain Bob Bartlett," who never commanded her, but rather William Bartlett Sr., who commanded her 1904-1913 and 1916-1920. There is a photo of him after p. 92 of Chafe.
Captain Daniel Green (born Newtown, Bonavista Bay; Ryan, p. 499) held commands for most of the years from 1891 (in the Ranger) to 1911 (in the Aurora); he skippered the Aurora (not mentioned in the song) 1906-1911 (Chafe, p. 91). For the Aurora see "First Arrival -- 'Aurora' and 'Walrus' Full"; also "The Spring of '97." Dan. Green is also mentioned in "The Sealer's Song (II)."
The Ranger is little dating help; she went to the ice every year but one from 1872 to 1941 (although she missed 1915); see "First Arrival from Sea Fishery S. S. Fogota, 1912." S. R. Winsor (Sam Winsor, born 1872, of the Winsor family mentioned above, and apparently the "Bob Winsor" of the "Sealer's Song (II)")) commanded her 1909-1911 and again starting in 1917.
The Algerine was lost in 1912; see "The Loss of the Algerine." Noah Bishop (born Swain's Island, Bonavista Bay; Ryan, p. 499; brother of the better-known Edward/Ned Bishop) commanded her from 1909 to 1912; she was the only sealer he commanded.
If we look at all the above, we find that, except for flat-out mistakes such as "Evan Keen" and "Gate Windsor," the mentions in this song tell a consistent story. It describes the seal hunt of 1910.
As additional evidence we may look at the list of sealers that went to the ice on p. 77 of Chafe. Nineteen ships sailed that year. Seventeen of those nineteen, and no others except the Louise, are mentioned in this song, and an eighteenth, the Aurora, is implicitly mentioned. Only the Harlaw, commanded by J. Farquhar, is omitted. What are the odds? - RBW
Last updated in version 4.4
- Candow: James E. Candow, Of Men and Seals: A History of the Newfoundland Seal Hunt, Canadian Parks Service, Environment Canada, 1989
- Chafe: Levi George Chafe, Chafe's Sealing Book: A History of the Newfoundland Sealfishery from the Earliest Available Records Down To and Including the Voyage of 1923, third edition, Trade Printers and Publishers, Ltd., 1923 (PDF scan available from Memorial University of Newfoundland)
- Feltham: John Feltham, Sealing Steamers, Harry Cuff Publications, 1995
- Galgay/McCarthy: Frank Galgay and Michael McCarthy, Shipwrecks of Newfoundland and Labrador, Volume II, Creative Publishers, 1990
- Greene: William Howe Greene, The Wooden Walls among the Ice Flows: Telling the Romance of the Newfoundland Seal Fishery, Hutchinson & Co, London (PDF available on the Memorial University of Newfoundland web site)
- Kean: Abram Kean, with a foreword by Sir Wilfred Grenfell, Old and Young Ahead, 1935; I use the 2000 Flanker Press edition edited and with a new Introduction (and new photographs) by Shannon Ryan
- O'Neill: Paul O'Neill, A Seaport Legacy: The Story of St. John's, Newfoundland, Press Procepic, 1976
- Ryan: Shannon Ryan, The Ice Hunters: A History of Newfoundland Sealing to 1914, Breakwater Books, 1994
- Ryan/Drake: Shannon Ryan, assisted by Martha Drake, Seals and Sealers: A Pictorial History of the Newfoundland Seal Fishery, Breakwater Books, 1987
- Tarver: Michael C. Tarver, The S. S. Terra Nova (1884-1943), Pendragon Maritime Publications, 2006
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