SONGS & LYRICS


Back to the Water



While we have researched these songs to the best of our ability there is, no doubt, more history and many more stories than are found here. We welcome any additional information/corrections you may have. Please email this info to sheri@jonesandcompany.ca



HISTORY & LYRICS



01 – St. John’s Waltz
Ron Hynes (SOCAN) Wonderful Grand Music Co Ltd. c/o TMP The Music Publisher

A contemporary classic, St John’s Waltz was written in 1979 by the legendary Ron Hynes. It was written one warm summer afternoon after Ron watched the Portuguese sailors play soccer and flirt with the local girls. He went home and wrote the first 2 verses right away, the third verse took a whole year. Ron himself didn’t record this song until 1997 for his record “Face to the Gale”.

Oh the harbour lights are gleaming
And the evening’s still and dark
And the seagulls are all dreaming
Seagull dreams on Amherst rock
And the mist is slowly drifting
As the storefront lights go dim
And the moon is gently lifting
As the last ship’s
The last ship’s coming in
All the sailors got a story
Some are true some are false
But they’re always wrecked
And they’re up on the deck
Dancin’ the St. John’s Waltz

Oh we’ve had our share of history
We’ve seen nations come and go
We’ve seen battles rage over land and stage
500 years or more
For glory or for freedom
For country or for king
Or for money or fame
But there are no names
On the graves where men lie sleeping
All the nine to fives survive the day
With a sigh and dose of salts
And they’re parkin’ their cars and packin’ the bars
Dancin’ the St. John’s Waltz

Oh my heart is on the highway
And I’m sold on goin’ to sea
All the planes fill the skyway
The trains run swift and free
So leave the wayward free to wander
Leave the restless free to roam
If its rocks in the bay
If it’s old cliché
You’ll find your way back home
So don’t question or inquire
What’s been gained
What’s been lost
In a world of romance
Don’t miss out on the chance
To be dancin’ the St. John’s Waltz



02 – CLIFFS OF BACCALIEU
Jack Withers

The Cliffs of Baccalieu is a Newfoundland song written by Jack Withers in 1934. (1899-1964). It was popularized by Stan Rogers. Baccalieu is an island approximately two miles off shore at the northern entrance to Conception Bay, Newfoundland. Many fisherman from Newfoundland spent their summers fishing on the Labrador coast. This song depicts a tense incident for a ship coming home from Labrador on its way to either Carbonear or St. John’s with its fishing crew. The vessel in the song is obviously a schooner, and it would have been burdened by a full load of salt cod caught along the Labrador coast. Sailing vessels returning from the Labrador fishery were quite often at the mercy of treacherous winds and turbulent seas so prevalent around this coastline.

First sung by Jack Withers in April, 1934, on the popular serial radio show The Adventures of the Irene B. Mellon.

We were bound home in October from the shores of Labrador
Trying to race a strong nor’easter and snow too
But the wind came down upon us making day as dark as night
Just before we made the land at Baccalieu

We thought we’d make the island as we hauled her farther south
As the gale from out the nor’east harder blew
But the lookout quickly shouted, and there right dead ahead
Through the snow-squall loomed the land of Baccalieu

It was hard down with the tiller and we struggled with the sheets
Doin’ our best to haul ‘em in a foot or two
And her deck soon sharply tilted ‘till twas hard to keep your feet
As we hauled her from the rocks of Baccalieu

Oh to leeward were the breakers and to win’ard was the gale
The sleet and snow would cut you through and through
With our lee-rail two feet under and two hands at the wheel
We hauled her from the cliffs of Baccalieu

The combers beat her under ‘till we thought she’d never rise
Our main boom was buckling nigh in two
And all hands clung to win’ard and stared with straining eyes
Down to leeward at the cliffs of Baccalieu

Oh, we hauled her to the south’ard and our canvas stood the strain
As the whistling snow-squalls from the nor’east blew
But our hearts were beating gladly, for no longer could we gaze
Down to leeward at the cliffs of Baccalieu



03 – Now I’m 64
Traditional

A variant of an original Newfoundland parlour song, the author for Now I’m 64 is unknown. The song was first recorded by Harry Hibbs (1968), Ryan’s Fancy (1977), Figgy Duff in (1980) and the Masterless Men (2009).

I pondered on those days gone by
As I sat beside the mill
And gazed upon the setting sun
As it sank beneath the hill
I gazed on it, once more me boys
T’was the very sun I’ve seen
It’s just the same now as it was
When we were sweet sixteen

CHORUS

Oh, how I long for those bright days
To come again once more
But come again they never will
For now I’m sixty four

The little fish swim in the brook
And wander down below
They swim on still and ever will
As they did long, long ago
The little meadow by the brook
Is just as fresh and green
It’s just the same now as it was
When we were sweet sixteen

CHORUS

Oh the past is past and she is gone
On earth we’ll meet no more
But we will meet in heaven above
On that eternal shore
And when we meet we’ll part no more
We both will reign supreme
No more to sing of days gone by
When we were sweet sixteen

CHORUS


4 – LET ME FISH OFF CAPE ST. MARY’S
Otto P. Kelland. Star Quality Music c/o Unidisc Music Inc

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This Newfoundland classic was written in 1947 by Otto P Kelland (1904-2004) of Flatrock NL. Otto Kelland was the Warden of St. John’s Penitentiary when he wrote this song. Kelland eventually became superintendent of the penitentiary before retiring and, according to his obituary in the Folk Alliance, was a prolific author with several books, volumes of poetry, and many songs to his credit. He was also a builder of model ships and was considered a noted authority on sailing ships and other seacraft.

Originally published in Gerald S. Doyle’s Old-Time Songs And Poetry Of Newfoundland: Songs Of The People From The Days Of Our Forefathers (1955), the song has been covered many times including Ryan’s Fancy (1975) Gordon Bok (1977) and Stan Rogers (1982).

From Great Finds In Newfoundland and Labrador: Cape St. Mary’s is located on the Cape Shore Drive off Route 100 on the southwestern tip of Newfoundland’s Avalon region, approximately two hours from St. John’s by road. It is the most accessible seabird rookery in North America. Bird Rock is the third largest nesting site and southernmost colony of Northern gannets in North America. Cape St. Mary’s is also the southernmost breeding area for thick-billed murres in the world and the southernmost major breeding site for common murres in the northwest Atlantic Ocean. This site is overflowing with perching, diving, and scrambling birds from edge to edge – melding together into an awesome moving, breathing spectacle of colour and sound.

Take me back to my western boat

Let me fish off Cape St. Mary’s

Where the hagdowns sail and the foghorns wail

With my friends the Browns and the Clearys

Let me fish off Cape St. Mary’s

Let me feel my dory lift

To the broad Atlantic combers

Where the tide rips swirl and the wild ducks whirl

Where Old Neptune calls the number
‘Neath the broad Atlantic combers

Let me sail up Golden Bay
With my oilskins all a-streamin’

From the thunder squall when I hauled me trawl

And my old Cape Ann a gleamin’

With my oil skins all a-streamin’

Let me view that rugged shore

Where the beach is all a-glisten

With the caplin spawn
Where from dusk to dawn

You bait your trawl and listen

To the undertow a-hissin’

When I reach that last big shoal

Where the ground swells break asunder

Where the wild sands roll to the surge’s toll
Let me be a man and take it
When my dory fails to make it

Take me back to that snug green cove
Where the seas roll up their thunder

There let me rest in the earth’s cool breast

Where the stars shine out their wonder

And the seas roll up their thunder


5 – Back to the Water
Kim Stockwood & Damhnait Doyle (SOCAN)

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Homesick for Newfoundland, Kim Stockwood and Damhnait Doyle started this song in 2001 while living in Toronto. It wasn’t until 2010 when they were sitting together on Signal Hill that it was completed. It is the title track and only original song on Kim’s record of favourite Newfoundland songs. It is also the title of Kim’s CMT documentary special on Newfoundland that initially airs in 2011.

It’s gonna be cold
But we won’t care
We’ll walk all night
Just to breathe the air
Salt water soakin’ right through my skin
Down to my soul
Like its always been

And the lights from the harbour
Will guide our path
If we close our eyes
It’s like we’ve never left
Heart is achin’ to be where the ice is breakin’
So little beauty, where I now stand

CHORUS

Gotta get back to the Water
Gotta get back to the sea
No matter where I wander
It’s always calling me
Gotta get back to the water
Gotta get back to the sea
At the end of all my travels
It’s where they’ll bury me

My heart is full
My heart’s at peace
I kiss the ground
The rock beneath my feet
This night, this sky, this memory
I’ll take it with me when I leave

CHORUS

Been so long
Been away so long
Been so long

This isle of olde
Well it is my home
Though I left here years ago
I see it now through my childrens’ eyes
Get’s harder to leave every time

Gotta get back to the Water
Gotta get back to the sea
No matter where I wander
The ocean’s calling me
Gotta get back to the water
Gotta get back to the sea
At the end of all my travels
It’s where they’ll bury me

This Isle of Olde
Well it is my home
Though I left here years ago


6 – Atlantic Blue
Ron Hynes (SOCAN). Blue Murder Music c/o TMP – The Music Publisher

Ron Hynes wrote Atlantic Blue in 1988, six years after the loss of The Ocean Ranger oil rig, which went down on February 14, 1982, some 315 kms east of St. John’s. Ron says the song was written on the same kind of wild and stormy day as when the Ocean Ranger sank. The Ocean Ranger was the world’s most advanced oil rig of its kind – self propelled, high as a 35-story building, it was build to withstand the world’s stormiest seas. At the height of the storm, the “indestructible” rig began to tip over, then capsized. All 84 men on board — 56 of them from Newfoundland — perished. It was Canada’s worst tragedy at sea since the Second World War.

Ron recorded Atlantic Blue in 1992 on “Cryer’s Paradise” and considers it his best work.

What colour is a heartache
From a love lost at sea
What shade of memory never fades
But lingers to eternity
How dark is the light of day
That sleepless eyes of mine survey

Is that you Atlantic Blue
My heart is as cold as you

How is one heart chosen
To never lie at peace
How many moments remain
Is there one sweet release
And who’s the stranger at my door
To haunt my dreams forever more

Is that you Atlantic Blue
My heart is as cold as you
As you

I lie awake in the morning
As the waves wash on the sand
I hold my hurt at bay
I hold the lives of his children in my hand

And whose plea will receive no answer
Whose cry is lost upon the wind
Whose the voice so familiar
Whispers my name when the night comes in
And whose wish never fails to find
My vacant heart on Valentine’s

Is that you Atlantic Blue
My heart is as cold
My heart is as cold
My heart is as cold
As you
As you
As you


7 – Squid-Jiggin’ Ground
Arthur Scammell

The lyrics to the Squid Jiggin’ Ground were written by Arthur Scammell in 1928, when he was only 15 years old as part of a high school project. The song is sung to the traditional Irish tune Nell Flaherty’s Drake. The song is unique in that it describes the method of jigging for squid and the type of equipment and circumstance that revolve around the activity.

On April 1, 1949, in ceremonies marking Newfoundland’s confederation with Canada, the tune was played as the representative song for Newfoundland, on the bells in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

In 2011 the song will be inducted into the Canadian Songwriter Hall of Fame for the Pioneer Era (up to 1938)

Oh, this is the place where the fishermen gather

With oilskins and boots and Cape Anns battened down

All sizes of figures with squid lines and jiggers

They congregate here on the squid-jiggin’ ground

Some are working their jiggers while others are yarnin’

There’s some standing up and some more lyin’ down

While all kinds of fun, jokes and tricks are begun

As they wait for the squid on the squid-jiggin’ ground

There’s men from the Harbour
And men from the Tickle

In all kinds of motorboats, green, gray and brown
There’s a red headed Tory out here in a dory
A runnin’ down Squires on the squid-jiggin’ ground

There’s men of all ages and boys in the bargain
There’s old Billy Chafe and there’s young Raymond Brown

Right yonder is Bobby and with him is Nobby

They’re a-chawin’ hard tack on the squid-jiggin’ ground

The man with the whiskers is old Jacob Steele

He’s gettin’ well up but he’s still pretty sound

While Uncle Bob Hawkins wears three pairs of stockins’
Whenever he’s out on the squid-jiggin’ ground

God bless my sou’wester
There’s Skipper John Chaffey
He’s the best man at squid jiggin’ here, I’ll be bound

Hello, what’s the row
Why he’s jiggin’ one now

The very first squid on the squid-jiggin’ ground

Holy smoke! What a bussel, all hands are excited
It’s a wonder to me that nobody is drowned

There’s a bustle, confusion, a wonderful hussel

They’re all jiggin’ squid on the squid-jiggin’ ground

There’s poor Uncle Billy, his whiskers are spattered
With spots of the squid juice that’s flyin’ around
One poor little boy got it right in the eye

But they don’t care a hang on the squid-jiggin’ ground

Says Bobby, “The squid are on top of the water”
I just got me jigger ’bout one fathom down

When a squid in the boat squirted right down his throat

And he’s swearin’ like mad on the squid-jiggin’ ground

Now, if ever you feel inclined to go squiddin’

Leave your white shirt and collars behind in the town
And if you get cranky without your silk hanky

You’d better steer clear of the squid-jiggin’ ground


8 – Petty Harbour Bait Skiff
Traditional

On June 8, 1852, a bait skiff (or trap skiff – 26 to 32 feet long) was caught in a squall near Petty Harbour while returning from Conception Bay. Everyone in the community witnessed the event but were powerless to help the men. They drowned one by one, except a boy clinging to the mast. Jacob Chafe successfully rescued the boy. This famous Newfoundland folk song, recalls the event. It was composed soon after the tragedy by John Grace of St. John’s. Only one of the crew, “young Menshon”, (or Menchington) was saved by “Jacob Chafe that hero brave.” Edward Chafe said that when he was little his grandfather had a copper sundial in the parlour which was presented to Jacob Chafe, the Hero Brave, in recognition of his courage and selflessness.

Published in Gerald S. Doyle’s Old-Time Songs And Poetry Of Newfoundland: Songs Of The People From The Days Of Our Forefathers.

Good people all both great and small
I hope you will attend
And listen to these verses few
That I have lately penned
And I’ll relate the hardships great
That fisherman must stand
While fighting for a livelihood
On the coast of Newfoundland

We bid adieu unto our friends
And those we hold most dear
Being bound from Petty Harbour
In the springtime of the year
The sea-gulls flying in the air
And pitching on the shore
But little we thought ‘twould be our lot
To see our friends no more

We shook our reefs and trimmed our sails
Across the bay did stand
The sun did rise, all circlized
Like streamers o’er the land
The clouds lay in the atmosphere
For our destruction met
Boreas blew a heavy squall
Our boat was overset

John French was our commander
Mick Sullivan second-hand
And all the rest were brave young men
Reared up in Newfoundland
Six brave youths, to tell the truth
Were buried in the sea
But the Lord preserved young Menshon’s life
For to live a longer day

Your heart would ache, all for their sake
If you were standing by
To see them drowning, one by one
And no relief being nigh
Struggling with the boisterous waves
All in their youth and bloom
But at last they sank, to rise no more
All on the eight of June

Now to conclude and finish
These few lines I write in pain
Never depend out of your strength
Whilst sailing on the main
But put your trust in Providence
Observe the Lord’s command
And he’ll guard you right
Both day and night
Upon the sea and land


9 – Feller from Fortune
Traditional

Feller From Fortune is a Newfoundland folk song collected by Margaret Sargant and Kenneth Peacock 1950/1951. It has been recorded by the Blackthorn Ceilidh Band, Dick Nolan, Great Big Sea, Ryan’s Fancy and the Fables. Initially published in Songs Of Newfoundland, a complimentary booklet of lyrics to twenty-one songs, it was also published in Gerald S. Doyle’s Old-Time Songs And Poetry Of Newfoundland: Songs Of The People From The Days Of Our Forefathers (Third edition, 1955).

There’s lots of fish in Bonavist harbour
Lots of fish right in around here
Boys and Girls are fishin’ together
45 from Carbonear

Chorus

Catch a hold this one, Catch a hold that one
Swing around this one, Swing around she
Dance around this one, dance around that one
Diddle dum this one, diddle dum dee

Sally goes to church every Sunday
Not to sing nor for to hear
But to see the Feller from Fortune
What was down here fishin’ last year

CHORUS

Sally got a bouncin’ new baby
Father said that he didn’t care
Cause he liked the Feller from Fortune
What was down here fishin’ last year

CHORUS

Uncle George Got up in the morning
He got up in a hell of a tear
Tore the arse right out of his trousers
Now he’s got n’er pair to wear

CHORUS

There’s lots of fish in Bonavist harbour
Lots of fish right in around here
Boys and Girls are fishin’ together
45 from Carbonear

Double Chorus

Catch a hold this one, Catch a hold that one
Swing around this one, Swing around she
Dance around this one, dance around that one
Diddle dum this one,
Diddle dum this one,
Diddle dum this one, diddle dum dee


10 – Ode to Newfoundland
Traditional


“Ode to Newfoundland” is the official provincial anthem of Newfoundland and Labrador. It was composed by Governor Sir Cavendish Boyle in 1902.[1] as a four-verse poem entitled Newfoundland. On December 22, 1902 it was sung by Frances Daisy Foster at the Casino Theatre of St. John’s (the former CBC studios) during the closing of the play Mamzelle.[1] The original score was set to the music of E.R. Krippner, a German bandmaster living in St. John’s but Boyle desired a more dignified score. It was then set to the music of British composer Sir Hubert Parry, a personal friend of Boyle, who composed two settings. On May 20, 1904 it was chosen as Newfoundland’s official national anthem (national being understood as a self-governing Dominion of the British Empire on par with Canada, South Africa, Australia and other former British colonies) .[1] This distinction was dropped when Newfoundland joined the Canadian Confederation in 1949. Three decades later, in 1980, the province re-adopted the song as an official provincial anthem. Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province in Canada to officially adopt a provincial anthem.

ODE TO NEWFOUNDLAND

When sun rays crown thy pine clad hills
And summer spreads her hand
When silvern voices tune thy rills

We love thee, smiling land
We love thee, we love thee

We love thee, smiling land

When spreads thy cloak of shimmering white
At winter’s stern command
Thro’ shortened day, and starlit night

We love thee, frozen land
We love thee, we love thee

We love thee, frozen land

When blinding storm gusts fret thy shore
And wild waves lash thy strand
Thro’ spindrift swirl, and tempest roar
We love thee windswept land
We love thee, we love thee

We love thee windswept land

As loved our fathers, so we love
Where once they stood, we stand;
Their prayer we raise to Heaven above

God guard thee, Newfoundland
God guard thee, God guard thee
God guard thee, Newfoundland


11 – Thank God We’re Surrounded by Water
Traditional

There are many lyrical versions of this song but little information. The author is unknown. There is an Irish folk song titled “Surrounded By Water” written by Dominic Behan (1928-1989) with a very similar chorus. One of the most famous Newfoundland versions was recorded by the legendary singer, Joan Morrissey. The song was adapted by Tom Cahill, a Newfoundlander best known for his work as a playwright for stage, film and television. Variants have been recorded by The Dubliners and Ronnie Drew.

The sea, oh the sea, the wonderful sea
Long may she roll between people and me

And everyone here should get down on one knee

Thank God we’re surrounded by water