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The Yarmouth Fishermen’s Song

[ Roud 2434 ; Ballad Index RcTYFS ; trad.]

Harry Cox of Catfield, Norfolk, sang The Yarmouth Fishermen’s Song to Peter Kennedy in October 1953. This recording was included in 1994 on the Saydisc CD of traditional English sea songs and shanties recorded by Peter Krnnedy in the 1950s, Sea Songs and Shanties, and in 2000 on Cox’s Rounder anthology What Will Become of England?. The anthology’s booklet noted:

This is a unique song about life on board a Yarmouth drifter. Harry composed a number of songs himself, but this one, composed by one of his father’s shipmates, was learned from his father. Harry couldn’t remember all the verses, however, and completed the song to the best of his ability.

Georgia Shackleton sang Yarmouth Fishermen’s Song on her 2023 CD Harry’s Seagull. She noted:

This song paints the picture of hard life aboard a Yarmouth drifter. It was written by one of Harry’s father’s shipmates. Harry sings this as best as he can remember from his father’s singing, but some of the verses probably come from Harry.


Harry Cox sings The Yarmouth Fishermen’s Song

On the fourteenth of November from Yarmouth we set sail,
The wind being east-north-east, my boys, with a sweet and a pleasant gale,
Until it did blow hard, and the sea rolled mountains high,
And at night when we did shoot, my boys, how dismal looked the sky.

The morning when we haul-ed, our anchor we let go.
There’s very few offish, my boys, but sorrows you do know.
There’s very few can tell what poor fishermen undergo,
All those who’re on the salt seas, when the stormy wyndes do blow.

We bent our other anchor, and by it we did ride,
Full four hours and more, boys, strongly tied,
Until my watch on deck, when they did so loudly call,
“Here’s a ship come down upon us,” so, master, they did call.

To think she did go clear of us, we all were very glad.
You must think and recollect, my boys, our case is very hard,
To think she did go clear of us, how glad were all our lot,
For she came so very close to us, our cable for to cut.

At least it was not all, for our ropes on fire did get.
We did not lose for the wants of them, we did not lose for wit.
But into harbour leave her, and on the slips did go.
And the next day put to sea again, hurroar, hurroar, my boys.

So now our voyage is ended, and all things they are done.
Here’s health unto our owner, here’s health unto his son,
Here’s health unto the people that stood the voyage through,
And here’s health unto our master, our boy, and all the crew.