Come All Ye Jolly Ice-Hunters
DESCRIPTION: "Come all ye jolly ice-hunters and listen to my song; I hope I won't offend you; I don't mean to keep you long." The sealer Daniel O'Connell leaves Tilton Harbour March 14, 1833. Captain William Burke gets the badly damaged ship through a storm
EARLIEST DATE: 1927 (Doyle)
KEYWORDS: hunting sea ship storm
FOUND IN: Canada(Newf)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Greenleaf/Mansfield 122, "Come All ye Jolly Ice-Hunters" (1 text)
Ryan/Small, p. 17, "Come All Ye Jolly Ice-Hunters" (1 text, 1 tune)
ST GrMa122 (Partial)
cf. "The Wreck of the Steamship Ethie" (theme)
NOTES [286 words]: Greenleaf/Mansfield notes, per G.S. Doyle that "This song was written in 1833. It is about the oldest song of a sealing nature now in existence." - BS
Roud lumps this with "The Wreck of the Steamship Ethie." The two of course share plot components as well as some stylistic elements, but this one is apparently about a much older incident. Still, I have been cautious; I don't think we can trust Doyle's 1833 date for the song; it appears to be derived from a date found in Doyle's first stanza.
That being said, it is certainly an old sealing song, from before the era of steam sealers (the first steamer being employed in 1863, and sailing vessels having been effectively brushed aside by 1870; 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), p. 89, shows that there was no captain named "Burke" in the steamer era, and p. 99 shows that there was no steamer Daniel O'Connell. The fact that there were only 28 sealers aboard her reinforces this conclusion; by the 1850s, the sealing trade had largely been taken over by brigs which carried a hundred or more sealers, and the steamers carried as many or more than that.
I haven't identified the Daniel O'Connell with certainty, but in 1835, a sealer Daniel O'Connell, commanded by John Shea, was based in St. John's. She was 75 tons and carried 18 men. (See Shannon Ryan, The Ice Hunters: A History of Newfoundland Sealing to 1914, Breakwater Books, 1994, p. 471.) I would assume it's the same ship, two years later. - RBW
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