> Cyril Tawney > Songs > Windy Old Weather

Windy Old Weather / Up Jumped the Herring

[ Roud 472 ; Master title: Windy Old Weather ; Ballad Index CoSB204 ; Bodleian Roud 472 ; DT WINDYWEA , WINDYWE2 ; Mudcat 149445 ; trad.]

Harry Cox of Catfield, Norfolk, sang Windy Old Weather to Alan Lomax (and Peter Kennedy? see lyrics below) in November 1953. A shortened version of this recording was included in 2000 on Rounder’s Cox anthology, What Will Become of England?. Cox also sang it to Peter Kennedy on 19 July 1956, which was released in 1965 on his eponymous EFDSS album, Harry Cox, The Rounder booklet commented:

This song appears on some broadsides as The Fishes’ Lamentation and seems to have survived as a sailor’s chantey or fisherman’s song. Whall (1910), Colcord (1938) and Hugill (1964) include it in their chantey books. We also recorded it from Bob Roberts on board his Thames barge, The Cambria. It also appears in the Newfoundland and Nova Scotia collections of Ken Peacock and Helen Creighton.

Bob Roberts sang Windy Old Weather to Peter Kennedy at Pinmill, Suffolk, on 12 July 1956. This recording was released in 1960 on Roberts Talking Book EP Windy Old Weather and in 1994 on the Saydisc anthology Sea Songs and Shanties. Another recording made by Tony Engle at Ryde, Isle of Wight, in August 1977 was released a year later on Roberts’ Topic album Songs From the Sailing Barges, and was included in 1993 on the Topic anthology of sea songs and shanties, Blow the Man Down.

Sam Larner sang the Haisboro Light Song (Up Jumped the Herring) to Philip Donnelan at home in Winterton, Norfolk, on 13 September 1959. This BBC recording was included in 1974 on Larner’s Topic album A Garland for Sam. Another recording of Up Jumped the Herring made by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger in 1950-60 was released on his album Now Is the Time for Fishing (Folkways 1961; Topic 2000). The Folkways liner notes commented:

According to Captain W.B. Whall, this song was, at one time, used as a shanty to the tune of Blow the Man Down. It is exceedingly popular with East-Anglian fishermen but is rarely encountered in other parts of Great Britain. During a recent recording trip among the fishermen of Durham, Northumberland, Aberdeenshire and Banffshire, the writers of these notes did not encounter anyone who knew the song or, indeed, know of the song. It is found in Nova Scotia and in the U.S. where it is known as The Boston Come-All-Ye. Kipling in Captains Courageous tells us that it was popular with the Banks fishermen.

Joanna Colcord’s included The Boston Come-All-Ye with quite different verses and chorus in her book Songs of American Sailormen. Peggy Seeger sang this version in 1962 on Whaler Out of New Bedford. Colcord noted:

There can be little doubt that [this] song, although it was sung throughout the merchant service, began life with the fishing fleet. We have the testimony of Kipling in Captains Courageous that it was a favourite within recent years of the Banks fishermen. It is known as The Fishes and also by its more American title of The Boston Come-All-Ye. The chorus finds its origin in a Scottish fishing song Blaw the Wind Southerly. A curious fact is that Captain Whall, a Scotchman himself, prints this song with an entirely different tune, and one that has no connection with the air of the Tyneside keelmen to which our own Gloucester fishermen sing it. The version given here was sung by Captain Frank Seeley.

Johnny Doughty sang Windy Old Weather to Mike Yates at Camber Sands, Sussex, in 1975. This recording was originally released on the Veteran tape of traditional singing in Sussex, Ripest Apples, and was included in 2001 on the Veteran CD When the Wind Blows. Mike Yates noted:

Sam Larner called this Up Jumped the Herring, whilst American singers prefer the title The Boston Come All Ye. Early broadside printers, such as John Pitts, called it The Fish’s Lamentation—A New Song, although later printers, including Armstrong of Liverpool and Morren of Edinburgh, called it The King of the Sea.

Roy Harris sang Tom Brown’s Stormy Old Weather in 1985 oh his Fellside album Utter Simplicity.

Tom Brown recorded Windy Old Weather to Trevor Sharpe at home in Worksop, Nottinghamshire on 14 August 1989. This recording was included in 1998 on the Topic anthology We’ve Received Orders to Sail (The Voice of the People Volume 12).

Cyril Tawney sang Windy Old Weather in 1992 on his Neptune cassette of sea songs for children, Little Boy Billee.

The Revels sang this song as The Fish of the Sea in 2002 on their CD Homeward Bound.

Keith Kendrick sang Fish of the Sea in a private recording that was included on the 2004 Lancaster Martitime Festival anthology Beware of the Press-Gang!!.

Georgia Shackleton sang Windy Old Weather on her 2023 CD Harry’s Seagull. She noted:

This borrows from both Harry Cox and Sam Larner’s versions of this song. The song appears on some broadsides as The Fishes’ Lamentation. Other titles include Happisburgh Light Song, Up Jumped the Herring. The song is popular within [the] East Anglian fishing community but not so widely found elsewhere.


Harry Cox sings Windy Old Weather

As we were a-fishin’ off Happisburgh Light
Shootin’ an’ haulin’ an’ trawlin’ all night.

Up jumped the herring, the queen of the sea,
She sang out, “Old Skipper, o, you can’t catch me.”

Chorus (after each verse):
In this windy old weather, stormy old weather,
When the wind blow, we’ll all pull together!

Up jumped the mackerel, with spots on his back,
He sang out, “Old Skipper, you’re on your own track.”

Up jumped the sprat, the smallest of all,
He sang out, “Old Skipper, come haul your trawl haul.”

Up jumped the crab, with his great long claws,
He sang out, “Old Skipper, you ’ll run her ashore.”

Up jumped the rooker, his back hard and tough,
He sang out, “Old steward, you will bum the duff.”

Up jumped the mackerel, with spots on his back,
He sang out, “Old Skipper, come square your main tack.”

Harry Cox: That’s all I know of that.
Alan Lomax: Oh, God! That’s one of the nicest songs I’ve heard in England, Peter!

Bob Roberts sings Windy Old Weather

As we were a-fishin’ off Happisburgh Light,
Shootin’ an’ haulin’ an’ trawlin’ all night.

Chorus (after each verse):
It was windy old weather, stormy old weather,
When the wind blows we all pull together.

When up jumped a herring, the queen of the sea,
Says now, “Old Skipper, you cannot catch me,”

In this…

We sighted a thrasher a-slashin’ his tail,
“Time now Old Skipper to hoist up your sail.”

Then up jumps a slipsole as strong as a horse,
Says now. “Old Skipper, you’re miles off your course.”

Then along comes a plaice who’s got spots on his side.
Says, “Not much longer—these seas you can ride.”

Then up rears a conger as long as a mile,
“Winds cornin’ east’ly,” he says with a smile.

I think what these fishes are sayin’ is right,
We’ll haul up our gear now an’ steer for the light.

Cos it’s…

Sam Larner sings Up Jumped the Herring

(Spoken:) When you’re a-hauling, you say, well this is a poor shimmer, that mean a, … a multitude, a, … a good lot, you know, a shimmer. A big shimmer or a little shimmer, we call that a shimmer o’ herring. And when we’re a-hauling mackerel, we call them… scrunks, big scrunks for mackerel, shimmer for herring.

Then up jumped the herring, he’s the king of the sea,
He said to the skipper: “Look under your lee.”

Chorus (after each verse):
Windy old weather, boys, squally old weather, boys,
When the wind blow, we’ll all go together.

Then up git the garnet with pricks on his back,
He jumped on the foredeck to hook on the jib tack, singing

Then up git the codfish with his great old head,
He said to the deckie, “Get a cast of lead,” singing

Then up git the haddock, so sharp and so shy;
He said to the deckie: “Hook on the lee guy.”

Then up git the roker, so sharp and so rough,
He said to the cook: “You are burning the duff.”

2nd Chorus:
So after it, you bugger, so after it, you bugger,
When the wind blow, we’ll all go together.

Then up jumped the sprat, the smallest of them all,
He said to the skipper; “Haul, haul the man’s trawl.”

(Laughs, spoken:) That’s what we used to sing, little boys used to sing that, we went to school. Course, we were all connected with the fishing, our fathers and our forefathers, we were … that was bred in us to be fishermen. Course we were brought up the hard way we were, there’s no mistake about it. We see more Sundays than we did Sunday dinners when I was a little boy. That we did. Why, for me and my brothers that was either sea or Jail, and that for my sisters that was service or Jail.

Peggy Seeger sings The Boston Come-All-Ye

Come all you young sailormen, listen to me,
I’ll sing you a song of the fish of the sea.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Then blow ye wins westerly, westerly blow,
We’re bound to the south’ard, so steady she goes

O first come the whale, the biggest of all,
He clumb up aloft and let every sail fall.

And next comes the mackerel with his striped back,
He hauled at the sheets and he boarded each tack.

Then come the porpoise with his short snout,
He went to the wheel calling, “Ready about!”

Then come the smelt, the smallest of all,
He clumb up the pool and sung out, “Topsail haul!”

The herring come saying, “I’m king of the seas,
If you want any wind, why I’ll blow you a breeze.”

Next come the cod with his chucklehead,
He went to the mainsheet to heave at the lead.

Last come the flounder as flat as the ground,
Says, “Damn your eyes, chucklehead, mind how you sound!”

Johnny Doughty sings Windy Old Weather

As I was a’fishing off Dungeness light
Shooting and hauling all through the long night

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
In this windy old weather, stormy old weather,
When the wind blows, we’ll all pull together.

When up spoke the cod with his great big head,
“Hold hard there Skipper I’ll go chuck the lead!”

Then up spoke the herring, the king of the sea,
“In this stormy weather you’ll never catch me!”

When up spoke the place with spots on his side,
“Now look here skipper these sea you can’t ride!”

Then up spoke the mackerel with stripes on his back,
“Hold hard there Skipper I’ll shift the jib tack!”

Then up spoke the sprat, the smallest of all,
“Come on there Skipper let’s give the mans trawl!”

Then up spoke the Skipper, “it’s true what they say,
We’ll all hump our trawl and we’ll get underway!”

Then up spoke the crew, “ If these fish are right
We’ll sail in royal harbour and we’ll be alright!”

Tom Brown sings Windy Old Weather

As I was a-sailing round Happisburgh Light,
We shot all our gear and we toiled through the night

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
In this windy old weather, stormy old weather,
When the wind blow, we’ll all pull together.

Then up jumped the herring, king of the sea,
Saying, “Come on, old skipper, you’ll never catch me!”

Then up jumped the plaice, as big as a plate,
Saying, “I’ll sign as skipper, if you’ll sign as mate.”

Then up jumped the whiting, easy and free,
Saying, “I’ll sign as driver, if you’ll fire for me.”

Then up jumped the whalefish that we call the blower,
Saying, “Come on, old skipper, I’ll sign as net-stower.”

Then up jumped the skate with his long slimey tail,
Saying, “I’ll sign to the hawse, boy, if you’ll sign to the whale.”

Then up jumped the coley, back as a rook,
Saying, “I’ll sign as yunker, if you’ll sign as cook.”

Now I think what the fishes are saying is right,
We’ll heave in the gear and we’ll steer for the light.