Come Down with the Killock
DESCRIPTION: "Come down with the killock And out with the line; Of fish about here, boys, There is a good sign." The ship sails; it's "not like the fools Who are hunting for fat." The singer decides fishing is better than sealing: "Off to the ice Go fools in a rush."
EARLIEST DATE: 1916 (Murphy, The Seal Fishery)
KEYWORDS: ship hunting fishing nonballad
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Ryan/Small-HaulinRopeAndGaff, p. 26, "Come Down with the Killock" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Briton Cooper Busch, _The War Against the Seals: A History of the North American Seal Fishery_, McGill-Queen's University Press, 1985, p. 57, "(no title)" (1 text)
NOTES [299 words]: Sealing was almost like gambling: some years a ship and her sailors would make a (literal) killing, others they would come back with almost nothing. This was hard on both ship owners (who still had to pay the expenses of outfitting the ship) and sealers (who might not get paid anything and would have had to pay the expenses of getting to port; prior to 1902, the sealers also had to pay just to get on a ship; see the notes to "The Sealer's Strike of 1902 (The Sealers Gained the Strike)"). And sealers were at significant risk of death or injury; hunting seals ("hunting for fat"), although it was held in awe in Newfoundland, was frankly an occupation for those who liked to take silly risks.
Most would not have admitted that fact. The writer of this piece seems to have been an exception. He apparently preferred to go for cod (at that time, still a reliable harvest) rather than risk going bust as a sealer.
According to G. M. Story, W. J. Kirwin, and J. D. A. Widdowson, editors, Dictionary of Newfoundland English, second edition with supplement, Breakwater Pres, 1990, pp. 285-286, "killock" is a variant of "killick," an anchor with a stone supplying the weight. This became proverbial in several ways: "If you lose your killick, you'll find it in the fall [on your bill from the merchant]"; a woman who was pregnant "had a rock in her killick"; "killick-stones" were, of course, the stones placed in the wooden cage of a killick. In this case, it would seem, the singer is saying, "Lower the anchor so we can take the fish around here."
The word "killick" was also known in the Royal Navy; according to Ernle Bradford, The Mighty Hood, 1959 (I use the 1977 Coronet paperback), pp. 51-52, "a leading seaman [was] known as a 'killick' (little anchor) from the badge on his arm." - RBW
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