> The Watersons > Songs > Cold Coast of Iceland

Cold Coast of Iceland

[Mike Waterson]

This song by Mike Waterson is sung by the vocal trio Coope Boyes & Simpson on their album Twenty-Four Seven. The album’s sleeve notes say

In Arctic waters, seas whipped up by winter gales can turn to ice immediately they land on the decks of fishing trawlers. Before the introduction of new technologies, this had to be chopped off with axes or vessels rapidly became top heavy and capsized. Forced to fish in extreme conditions in 1968, the Hull trawlers, the “St Romanus”, the “Kingston Peridot” and the “Ross Cleveland” sank within days of each other with the loss of fifty-eight lives. Three Ships, Mike Waterson’s superb memorial to the tragedy was originally written for the play The Northern Trawl, which - like Cold Coasts of Iceland - also dealt with the life and death of deep water fishing industry.

Mike Waterson sang Cold Coast of Iceland at Hull Truck Theatre in August 2010. This was one of Mike’s last public performances, and the last time the family performed together. The concert was published in 2011 on the DVD Live at Hull, and this song is available on YouTube too:


Me name is Jim Parkinson, Hull’s where I’m from
Some call me a hero, some call me a bum
But I’ll sing you a song the way songs should be sung
Of them heroes that fished off of Iceland

Talk of your soldiers, your sailors so fine
Your men in the steel work, your lads down the mine
But there’s many’s the hero that’s wasted his prime
Catching cod off the cold coast of Iceland

I’ve three fingers missing, now ain’t that a shame
And me left leg is gammy that means that I’m lame
It’s a small price to pay to be part of the game
Catching cod off the cold coast of Iceland

It’s bye-bye St Andrews as we head for the ground
Where the cod and the haddock and them redfish are found
Then it’s out with the gear and we work the clock round
Catching cod off the cold coast of Iceland

Now your wage is a gamble so you earn all you can
There’s rules to be broken so you break everyone
And you stand and you freeze and kid on you’re a man
Catching cod off the cold coast of Iceland

And when the trip’s over and Sinbad’s ashore
You drink a few pints and then have a few more
And then it’s home to the missus or else visit some whore
To forget about fishing off Iceland

Then came the cod wars and we lost every round
And the fishing was over for we’d lost the best ground
And the cloud of despondency fell on the town
No more fishing for cod off of Iceland

But now on the dock where the trawlers were seen
In cold glass and concrete a brand new museum
It’s called Trawling Deep Water GB PLC
And all of me heroes are mem’ries


Transcribed by Reinhard Zierke. Very many thanks to Georgina Boyes for correcting misspellings and mishearings.