Western Boat (Let Me Fish Off Cape St Mary's)
DESCRIPTION: "Take me back to my Western boat, Let me fish off Cape St Mary's." Singer recounts good times and wants to be buried in "that snug green cove where the seas roll up their thunder"
AUTHOR: Otto P. Kelland (1904-2004)
EARLIEST DATE: 1955 (Doyle3)
KEYWORDS: fishing sea lyric nonballad work death
FOUND IN: Canada(Newf)
REFERENCES (8 citations):
Doyle3, p. 39, "Let Me Fish Off Cape St Mary's" (1 text, 1 tune)
Doyle4, p. 48, "Let Me Fish Off Cape St Mary's" (1 text, 1 tune)
Doyle5, p. 31, "Let Me Fish Off Cape St Mary's" (1 text, 1 tune)
Blondahl, pp. 88-89, "Let Me Fish Off Cape St Mary's" (1 text, 1 tune)
Mills, pp. 36-37, "Let me Fish Off Cape St.Mary's" (1 text, 1 tune)
English-Newfoundland, p. 54, "Let Me Fish Off Cape St Mary's" (1 text, 1 tune)
ADDITIONAL: Otto P. Kelland, _Anchor Watch: Newfoundland Stories in Verse_ (privately printed, 1960), pp. 7-8, "Let Me Fish Off Cape St. Mary's" (1 text)
Omar Blondahl, "Let Me Fish Off Cape St Mary's" (on NFOBlondahl01)
NOTES [420 words]: Cape St Mary's is now a sea-bird sanctuary at the southwest corner of the Avalon Peninsula [off Placentia Bay - RBW], about 100 miles from St John's - BS
Although the printed editions seem to call this "Let Me Fish Off Cape St Mary's," I've assigned the basic title "Western Boat" on the assumption that most people know it from the recording by Gordon Bok. That may have been a mistake on my part; this song is extremely well-known in Newfoundland.
Kelland was born in Lamaline, 1904, according to DictNewfLabrador, p. 185. He spent some time at sea as a steward and seaman before joining the Newfoundland Constabulary in 1924. He became warden of the St. John's penitentiary in 1939, and continued in that job until he retired. This song was reportedly written in 1947. It appears most of his books were published after he retired. His son, Otto Paul James "Jim" Kelland, became Newfoundland's Minister of Environment and Lands in 1989.
Other pieces by Kelland in the Index are "Captain Bob Bartlett," "The Dying Seal-Hunter," "Captain Abram Kean," and "We Will Always Have Our Sealers." The latter four are all in the Index based on their inclusion in Ryan and Smalls collection of sealing poems, and probably are not traditional. This song, however, most certainly is traditional despite its recent composition.
The "western boat" of the title is not a boat on a western shore. It's a Newfoundland term for "a schooner-rigged fishing vessel of 15 to 30 tons"; see Young, p. 185. This is confirmed by the mention of Cape St. Mary's, which is in southeastern Newfoundland.
According to Young, pp. 31-32, a "hagdown," also known as a "bawk," is a name for the greater shearwater or the sooty shearwater, members of the genus Puffinus. However, Strowbridge, p. 216, defines a hagdown as a "Placentia Bay person." Note that these two meanings do not entirely contradict, and either or both could be meant.
A dory is a small, flat-bottomed boat, usually rowed although some can take a sail (Young, p. 66).
A "Cape Ann" or "Cape Ann hat" is a rubber head-covering with a brim all around, with the brim being longer at the back to cover the neck (Young, p. 45). Strowbridge, p. 203, suggests that it should be green (probably Lincoln Green, since it was sometimes called a "Lincoln").
Capelin/caplin are a type of edible fish that came ashore to mate and often were netted there (Young, p. 45). Strowbridge says it is about seven inches long, has a narrow face, and has green ad brown-tinted sides and is silver below that. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.4
- DictNewfLabrador: (Robert H. Cuff, managing editor), Dictionary of Newfoundland and Labrador Biography, Harry Cuff Publications, 1990
- Strowbridge: Nellie P. Strowbridge, The Newfoundland Tongue, Flanker Press, 2008
- Young: Ron Young, Dictionary of Newfoundland and Labrador, Downhome Publishing Inc., 2006
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