The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #34   Message #4194358
Posted By: Gibb Sahib
27-Dec-23 - 06:43 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: I've been a sea cook and I've been a ...
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: I've been a sea cook and I've been a ...
My earliest source for "The Ryans and the Pittmans" (Newfie parody of "Spanish Ladies") is James Murphy, Old Songs of Newfoundland (self-published, 1912). Then it gets taken up in the self-published Newfoundland-centered songsters of Gerald Doyle (1927, 1940), and Edith Fowke borrows (via Doyle) it for Folk Songs of Canada (1954).

Murphy positively ascribes authorship to the eleven-verse song to H. W. LeMussurier, Deputy Minister of Customs, "some 35 years ago," i.e. circa 1877. (Mentioned as well on the Traditional Ballad Index.) I think we can treat that with a pretty high level of confidence. LeMussurier published a public notice (government business) in the advertisement section of Murphy's book itself, and it would seem likely that the two were personal acquaintances. It's less clear as to whether LeMussurier's composition had "caught on" much in oral tradition or if, indeed, due to the acquaintance Murphy was able to give the song a platform in his book.

One of the more interesting substitutions in Lloyd's re-write is the change from chawing "frankgum" to chawing "tobacco"—the former evoking a characteristically Canadian Maritime practice. "Ryans and Pittmans" also has a nice internal rhythm of "jigger" (cf. squid-jigging) with "figger" (figure) that goes away in Lloyd's version since "jigging" was a Newfie fishermen's thing specifically.

I enjoy Lloyd's piece; I think it fits the imaginary of whaling nicely. Allowing folks to presume it was a whalermen's song, however, is frustrating. Also frustrating not to credit LeMussurier as the name *was* know-able—at least in Murphy's and Doyle's books. If Fowke's book was Lloyd's source, he may have presumed the author was unknown. Because Fowke, in preparing a popular volume that could serve as a songster for Canadians broadly, introduces vague stuff in her notes to the songs. In the case of this song, for instance, she says it was "written around 1880," which is technically true, but seems to me as a thing that folk revival *performers* sometimes do to make information about songs *less* clear—as if to remove authorship and imbue the song with a more mysterious/magical "communal" origin. We go from Murphy in 1912 positively stating the author is LeMussurier 35 years ago [i.e. circa 1877] to Doyle picking it up and being less positive about the author (skepticism—fair enough) and adding "over" 50 years ago [i.e. *earlier* than 1877] to Fowke saying "written" but not naming the author and, I guess, smudging circa 1877 as "around 1880." 1877 or around 1880 probably makes little difference, but it's the way that successive writers subtly erode the foundation of firm authorship and date that I find interesting. At last, Lloyd says, of "Talcahuano Girls": "The present version belongs to the rowdy South-Seamen who, particularly during the first half of the 19th century, sailed out of London and Hull to hunt the sperm whale off the coasts of Chile and Peru."   

One of the other famous adaptations of Lloyd from a Canadian Maritimes collection is "The Wild Goose," from Roy MacKenzie, Ballads and Sea Songs from Nova Scotia (1928).

Please correct any mistakes I may have made. The above is based solely on my bibliographic notes about various books. I suppose I should also make the disclaimer that I have no proof of what Lloyd did, I'm only assuming based on what I think the internal evidence strongly points to.