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happy? - June 21 (Eclipse spies whalefish)

Abby Sale 21 Jun 05 - 07:36 AM
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Subject: happy? - June 20
From: Abby Sale
Date: 21 Jun 05 - 07:36 AM

        It was the 21st of June, it being a glorious day,   [1887]
        The Eclipse, she spied a whalefish
        And she lowered all hands away.

           Blow ye winds a-morning,
           Blow ye winds, high-ho
           Clear away your running gear,
           And blow, boys blow.

                "The Eclipse"

This labor-protest song is factually pretty much as given. It relates events during the 1887 whaling season, the year of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. It was said to be written by a Shetlander.

Captain David Gray (not Grant) of the Eclipse was one of the greatest whaling captains and took a 57-foot whale on the 21st of June. It was the largest of his career but his sole kill of this voyage so that the total haul for the trip was the worst of his career. Most of the whales in the North Greenland waters had already been taken and the sailors' bonus was only one shilling and threepence per ton of whale oil. "Her crew felt the trip had hardly been worth the hardship, and they marched through the streets of Peterhead (or Lerwick) to tell the owners so."

The Eric took one small whale (and a live polar bear) and the Hope none at all, just seals. Whaling effectively ended in Peterhead in 1893. The Eclipse eventually became a Russian exploration vessel, still in use up to WW II.

See Gavin Greig, Folk-Song of the North-East, 1909; also AL Lloyd (with E. MacColl), Whaling Ballads LP, 1957.

Copyright © 2005, Abby Sale - all rights reserved
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