DESCRIPTION: "Down in Greedy Harbour we went one time; We shipped on board with old man Ryme; The skipper and I could not combine, With him I spent a very short time." The singer buys and loses a punt, dresses a cow in silks, and drinks turpentine thinking it wine
EARLIEST DATE: 1929 (Greenleaf/Mansfield)
KEYWORDS: humorous nonballad talltale
FOUND IN: Canada(Newf)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Greenleaf/Mansfield 127, "Greedy Harbour" (1 text, 1 tune)
Leach-Labrador 114, "Grady's Harbour" (1 text, 1 tune)
NOTES [480 words]: The Greenleaf/Mansfield version of this claims that it was written by Jack Maher and Stephen Mullins of the Sagona. On the other hand, Leach's informants thought the song local to Labrador. There are several hints in the Leach text that it is indeed the more original (e.g. the reference to "Grady's Harbour," a real place, rather than "Greedy Harbour," which does not exist; the use of Ryan as the Captain's name rather than "Ryme" -- but, of course, these could be localizations).
What we can say is that the S. S. Sagona was a real ship. She was built in 1912 for Crosbie & Co., later being sold to the Reid company and the Newfoundland Railroad, which in addition to running trains also ran the coastal steamers (Hanrahan, p. 201). Ryan/Drake, p. 40, list her as being a steel steamer, 420 net tons, 98 horsepower -- surprisingly small for a steel steamer, although about typical for the wooden wall steamers of the period. Connors, p. 39, quotes a newspaper report from 1912 which descibes her as "a vessel of 807 gross tons, 420 net, length 175 feet, breadth 28 feet, depth 20 ft. 3 ins. Her accommodation for the sealers 'tween decks is fine. She has a fine saloon amidships and steerage aft, with smoking rooms and ladies' cabn. The ship can take 50 saloon and 40 steerage passengers, can steam 14 knots."
As the newspaper account says, she was designed to carry passengers (which again makes it surprising that she was so small). But she did serve on the Newfoundland/Labrador run for a time, so men who served on her could have written a Newfoundland song.
In addition to ferry service, she spent some time as a sealer, starting in 1912-1914 under S. R. Winsor, then taking the war period off and resuming service in 1921 under Job Knee (Chafe, p. 104). In 1923, she and the other ships belonging to the Newfoundland Railroad reverted to the ownership of the Newfoundland government when the Reid Newfoundland Company gave up its assets in Newfoundland (Connors, p. 48). Ryan/Drake, p. 40, says that her last year as a sealer was 1938, and she was sold in the 1940s. (She was one of the few steel sealers to still be active in that period; all the other steel steamers were sold off, mostly to Russia, during World War I.)
I don't have a complete list of captains of the Sagona, but there are no Ryans or Rymes among those I know about. If "Old Captain Ryan" is a real person, I would suspect he is the nineteenth century sealing captain William Ryan, for whom see "Captain Bill Ryan Left Terry Behind."
Ryan/Drake, p. 40, and Connors, p. 40 have photos of the Sagona. (Yes, they have their photos on the same page. It's the same photo, too). The Sagona is also mentioned in "Arrival of 'Aurora,' 'Diana,' 'Virginia Lake,' and 'Vanguard,' Loaded," "First Arrival from the Sea Fishery S. S. Fogota, 1912," and "To the Memory of the Late Captain Kennedy." - RBW
Last updated in version 4.5
- 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)
- Connors: William Connors, By the Next Boat: A Photo History of Newfoundland Coastal Boats, Johnson Family Foundation, 2002
- Hanrahan: Maura Hanrahan, The Alphabet Fleet, Flankers Press Ltd., 2007
- Ryan/Drake: Shannon Ryan, assisted by Martha Drake, Seals and Sealers: A Pictorial History of the Newfoundland Seal Fishery, Breakwater Books, 1987
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