Change Islands Song
DESCRIPTION: Describes the work of the men from Change Islands as they move up north along the coast. Activities include fishing, hunting seals, and canning berries -- but there is a scarcity of everything this time. Only the fishing improves a little later.
EARLIEST DATE: 1929 (Greenleaf/Mansfield-BalladsAndSeaSongsOfNewfoundland)
KEYWORDS: work hunting fishing hardtimes
FOUND IN: Canada(Newf)
REFERENCES (3 citations):
Greenleaf/Mansfield-BalladsAndSeaSongsOfNewfoundland 124, "Change Islands Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
Doyle-OldTimeSongsAndPoetryOfNewfoundland, "Change Islands Song" (1 text, 1 tune): p. 61 in the 2nd edition
Blondahl-NewfoundlandersSing, pp. 93-95, "The Change Islands Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
cf. "The Merman (Pretty Fair Maid with a Tail)" [Laws K24] (tune)
NOTES [341 words]: Change Islands is near Fogo Island on the east coast in Hamilton Sound. Most of their excursions seem to be to the very northern tip of the island and "across the Strait" which would be Labrador. Many personal names are mentioned in the song to make it more authentic. - SH
The version of this in Greenleaf/Mansfield-BalladsAndSeaSongsOfNewfoundland calls the ship the Neta C., the captain "Thomas Hines," and the second hand (first mare) "Walter." The use of the term "second hand," as opposed to "first mate" or similar, strongly implies that the boat was in fact a sealer, as the song says; "second hand" was a sealing term, although sometimes applied to officers in other businesses (StoryKirwinWiddowson, p. 459).
A search of the many sealers listed in Ryan fails to turn up one named the Neta/Netta C. That doesn't prove anything; Ryan's lists do not cover every year for every port -- and even if he did, there were lots of little ships in Newfoundland too small for anyone to notice or register. But it raises at least the possibility that the name of the ship was mis-remembered. In that case, the best fit I can find is the Minnie, which sailed from La Poile in 1869 under Captain Hynes -- a tiny boat of fourteen tons, with a crew of six. In the same year, a much larger Clara Jane sailed from Greenspond under captain Haines (Ryan, p. 492). La Poile is on the south shore of Newfoundland, the side opposite Change Islands; Greenspond, on the northern coast, fits better geographically, but I can't see any way to mishear Clara Jane as Neta C.
There is some evidence that it was hard to catch much in the way of marine life in the Change Islands. Abram Kean (for whom see "Captain Abram Kean") records visiting the area in his capacity as a government minister and hearing extensive arguments from the locals about how they should be allowed to use illegal fishing methods (Kean, p. 78). Since, however, Kean was essentially a fascist trying to convince people of his fascist position, I'd take this with a grain of salt. - RBW
Last updated in version 6.0
- Kean: Abram Kean, with a foreword by Sir Wilfred Grenfell, Old and Young Ahead, 1935; I use the 2000 Flanker Press edition edited and with a new Introduction (and new photographs) by Shannon Ryan
- Ryan: Shannon Ryan, The Ice Hunters: A History of Newfoundland Sealing to 1914, Breakwater Books, 1994
- StoryKirwinWiddowson: G. M. Story, W. J. Kirwin, and J. D. A. Widdowson, editors, Dictionary of Newfoundland English, second edition with supplement, Breakwater Pres, 1990
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