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No More Fish, No Fishermen

[ Roud - ; Mudcat 114619 ; Shelley Posen]

Finest Kind sang their member Shelley Posen’s 1996 song No More Fish, No Fishermen on their 1999 CD Heart’s Delight and on the 2002 festival anthology 23rd Annual Sea Music Festival at Mystic Seaport. They noted on their CD:

Shelley [Posen] wrote this song about the recent calamitous demise of the 500-year-old Newfoundland cod fishery. The song is modelled on Coal Not Dole, Kay Sutcliffe’s lament for the coal mining industry in Great Britain, as sung by Coope, Boyes, and Simpson to the tune of the Victorian Christmas carol, See Amid the Winter’s Snow.

There are several Newfoundland and nautical terms and phrases in the song. A reach is a sea inlet or channel. Hard, hard times recalls the title of a traditional local song about the fisherman’s bitter economic lot. A modern trawler ship drags a huge bag-shaped net capable of enclosing an entire school of fish. A stage was the shed where in former times inshore cod fishermen landed, split, washed, and salted their catch. A flake was a rough pole-and-bough platform on which salt cod was dried in sun and wind before being exported.


Finest Kind sing No More Fish, No Fishermen

Out along the harbour reach
Boats stand dried up on the beach
Ghost-like in the early dawn
Empty, now the fish are gone.

What will become of people now?
Try to build a life somehow
Hard, hard times are back again
No more fish, no fishermen.

No more shoppers in the stores
Since the fish plant closed its doors
Men who walked a trawler’s decks
Now line up for welfare cheques.

There’s big “For Sale” signs everywhere
Pockets empty, cupboards bare
See it on the news at ten
No more fish, no fishermen.

Once from Ship Cove to Cape Race
Port aux Basques to Harbour Grace
Newfoundlanders fished for cod
Owing merchants, trusting God.

They filled their dories twice a day
They fished their poor sweet lives away
They could not imagine then
No more fish, no fishermen.

Back before the Second War
We could catch our fish inshore
Boats were small and gear was rough
We caught fish, but left enough.

And now there’s no more fish because
The trawler fleets took all there was
We could see it coming then
No more fish, no fishermen.

Farewell now to stage and flake;
Get out for the children’s sake
Leave all friends and kin behind
Take whatever job you find.

There’s some that say things aren’t so black
They say the fish will all come back
Who’ll be here to catch them then?
No more fish, no fishermen.