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Ballina Whalers

[ Roud - ; Mudcat 24686 ; Harry Robertson (1923-1995)]

There are two forms of Scottish born, Australian Folk singer Harry Robertson’s famous song Ballina Whalers. The words remain the same for both, but the singing style is different.

  1. In the 1960s Harry wrote the original Ballina Whalers words in couplets which he then sang in shanty style, unaccompanied, and leading a strong chorus.
  2. When Alex Hood recorded Ballina Whalers on Harry’s 1971 album of songs of whaling in ice and sun, Whale Chasing Men, it was sung in four line verses with instrumentation added.

Nic Jones recorded this song in 1980 as The Humpback Whale for his Topic album Penguin Eggs. On the same album, he recorded another one of Robertson’s songs, Wee Pot Stove, as The Little Pot Stove. His original LP did not credit Robertson as the author of both songs; this was rectified on the album’s CD release.

John Wesley Harding also sang this song on his Nic Jones tribute album, Trad Arr Jones.

Danny Spooner sang Ballina Whalers on his 2006 CD of songs of the whaling industry, The Great Leviathan. He noted:

Another of Harry Robertson’s songs sings the praise of the adaptable Aussie worker. The men who manned the old ex-naval Fairmile to hunt humpback whales out of Byron Bay were trawler men used to fishing and prawning with nets. Now with a tractor mounted on the deck for a whale winch and a harpoon gut mounted forward, they went whale hunting Aussie Style.

Saul Rose sang Ballina Whalers in 2008 on Faustus’ eponymous Navigator CD Faustus. They noted:

Learned from Nie Jones’ album Penguin Eggs, this was written in 1970 by the Australian Harry Robertson. Two verses have been cut to make the story about one whale hunt instead of a whole season. The tune of the instrumentals is The 8th of July, also known as The Battle of New Orleans, and used as the melody for Jimmy Driftwood’s song of the same name about the American War of 1812, made popular by Lonnie Donegan.

Jon Boden sang Ballina Whalers as the 19 January 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

The Ballina Whalers sang this song as The Humpback Whale on their 2012 EP Lowlands.


Please find the lyrics for this song at Harry Robertson’s website.