Captain Henry Thomey
DESCRIPTION: "Upon the past I'm thinking, To it my heart is linking, When fifteen thousand hardy men Trod the frozen floe. Oh, those days were merry And everyone felt cheery When men sailed 'long with Terry and Thomey long ago."
EARLIEST DATE: 1916 (Murphy, The Seal Fishery)
KEYWORDS: hunting nonballad moniker
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Ryan/Small, p. 15, "Captain Henry Thomey" (1 single-stanza text)
NOTES [422 words]: Based on the very short form in Ryan/Small, this isn't really a moniker song -- but the whole thing is about Henry Thomey, who apparently headed sealing expeditions for nearly sixty years. Monikerish enough. Whether it's traditional I don't know; no author seems to be known, but there is no collection information either.
According to Chafe, p. 32, Thomey "was selected as Master for one of the Sailing vessels before he was twenty years of age, and continued until he was nearly eighty years of age, and rarely failed to bring in a good trip." That first year as a captain was apparently 1842 (cf. Ryan, p. 214). Most of Thomey's career was spent commanding sailing ships (he commanded the Isabel Ridley of Harbour Grace for 28 years; DictNewfLabrador, p. 337), but he did move over to steam ships at the end of his career, commanding the Commodore 1878-1881 and the Greenland 1886-1889 (Chafe, p. 95). By this time, his son Henry Thomey Jr. was apparently commanding sealers (Feltham, p. 32), but the younger Thomey never graduated to a steamer.
Ryan, p. 273 n. 29 says that "Capt. Henry Thomey (1820-1911), was primarily a sailing captain, first for Ridleys and then for Munns. He averaged 4,000 pelts a year for 40 years, never had a serious accident at the ice and 'never lost a man' (see Evening Telegram, 9 January 1911)." He is quoting Thomey's obituary, which he reprints in full on p. 383.
There are disputes about his date; DictNewfLabrador, p. 337, says he was born in 1819 (they agree that he died in 1911).
The Harbour Grace Standard of May 10, 1879 apparently had a poem about the elder Thomey, including the words:
He's the man that roams the ice fields
Keen of scent a any hound --
For thirty years or more he's gone there
Where's his equal to be found?
(Feltham, p. 35).
I'm not sure every Newfoundlander would have approved of Thomey as much. In the 1890s, an interest from the Canadian Maritimes tried to break into the Newfoundland sealing trade -- and hired Thomey to be in charge. The Newfoundland media definitely did not approve (Ryan, p. 176-177).
Henry wasn't the only Thomey to be a saling captain. In 1853, two Captain Thomeys saild from Harbour Grace, one commanding the Orange (118 tons, 40 men) and the other the Scotch Lass (123 tons, 45 men). Both were supplied by the firm of Arthur Thomey (Ryan, p. 462), so I suspect these were Arthur and Henry Thomey.
The "Terry" of this song appears to be Captain Terrance Halleran. For him, see also "Captain Bill Ryan Left Terry Behind."- 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)
- DictNewfLabrador: (Robert H. Cuff, managing editor), Dictionary of Newfoundland and Labrador Biography, Harry Cuff Publications, 1990
- Feltham: John Feltham, Sealing Steamers, Harry Cuff Publications, 1995
- Ryan: Shannon Ryan, The Ice Hunters: A History of Newfoundland Sealing to 1914, Breakwater Books, 1994
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