Cooks of Torbay, The
DESCRIPTION: "Come all ye young fellows wherever ye be I'll sing ye a verse on the cooks of Torbay." The sealing ship Ellen goes up the Gulf. The captain gives the cook grief for only cooking two meals for the day. The insulted cook has his son make the meal
EARLIEST DATE: 1929 (Greenleaf/Mansfield)
KEYWORDS: hunting sea ship humorous cook
FOUND IN: Canada(Newf)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Greenleaf/Mansfield 148, "The Cooks of Torbay" (1 text)
Ryan/Small, p. 113, "The Cooks of Torbay" (1 text)
ST GrMa148 (Partial)
NOTES [222 words]: Torbay is about seven miles north of St John's. - BS
There aren't many dating hints in this song, but the ship's name Ellen is perhaps slightly indicative. There was no sealing steamer named Ellen (Chafe, pp. 98-105, has a comprehensive list). This implies a sailing ship, and almost certainly a date before 1900; indeed, a date before 1880 is likely.
On the other hand, the list of ships in the index of Ryan (see "ships, sailing" in the Index) doesn't include an Ellen either. That's not proof -- there were so many sailing sealers that the records surely aren't complete. It does seem odd that the song is about a little-known ship, though.
The one other thing that occurs to me is that "Ellen" could be a mis-hearing of "Bella," as in the Bellaventure, which went to the ice 1909-1915 (Chafe, p. 98). This would explain all the little hints in the song that it is late. We know that the Bellaventure was also known as the "Belle" (see "Captains and Ships"; also "The Newfoundland Disaster (I)"). I frankly think that more likely than that this is a song about a forgotten ship. If so, it might be possible to figure out the year this song refers to by examining the Bellaventure's crew lists and the year she went to "the Gulf" (the St. Lawrence) as opposed to "the Front" (the area northeast of Newfoundland). - RBW
Last updated in version 4.4
- 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)
- Ryan: Shannon Ryan, The Ice Hunters: A History of Newfoundland Sealing to 1914, Breakwater Books, 1994
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