05 Jul

Georgian Bay Ho Ho

Georgian Bay Ho Ho

Bartender! Fill our glasses up,
There’s time for one round more,
For soon our mudhook we’ll break out,
Off Garden Island shore,
We’ll toss our dunnage right aboard,
And up the Lakes we’ll go,
In an able timber hooker, bound,
For Georgian Bay, Ho! Ho!

For Georgian Bay, Ho! Ho! My boys!
It’s lively we do go!
Bound up again and “flying light,”
For Georgian Bay, Ho! Ho!

The fores’l, main and mizzen’s made,
Gafftops’ls two also,
Our anchor it is now hove short,
It’s time for us to go.
So man your topsail halliards, boys,
Sheet home! And then belay!
Hoist and back! Forestays’l! jibs!
Up anchor! And fill away!

The wind it is dead aft, my boys,
From the Nor’east it does blow,
So give her the squarefores’l,
And raffees two, also.
Wing out fore, main and mizzen booms!
Square yards! Haul taut! Belay!
O! Watch her tearin’ through the foam,
She’s bound for Georgian Bay.

Now we have made Port Dalhousie,
The Canal we have passed through,
Lake Erie and both “Rivers,”
And up Lake Huron, Blue.
We’re anchored in our loading berth,
While small isles ‘round us lay,
And pine timber floats in booms, there,
‘Way up in Georgian Bay.

Now ship your timber davit, boys,
Reeve off the hoisting gear,
Price up the lower stern ports,
See you heaving cable clear,
Horse-boy, ship your capstan bar,
Hitch on the horses, two,
Soon we’ll load square timber in,
On board of the “Buckaroo.”

The stick it being hooked end on,
To the port sill it does move,
The hooks are then clapped on it,
And inboard it is hove.
The mate he breasts it in to place,
With timber dogs, you know,
And is watchful or he’ll lose some toes,
At Georgian Bay, Ho! Ho!

The water now has reached both sills,
Close lower ports! Make fast!
And caulk them up with oakum!
The hold is filled at last.
It’s next the deck ports open,
Then hoist on deck and stow,
‘Till all the deckload is on board,

O, it’s a-rolling, boys, a-rolling,
As homeward bound we go,
All the way down to Garden Isle,
From Georgian Bay, Ho! Ho!

This month’s song comes from an incredible, unpublished manuscript compiled by Joseph F. McGinnis. McGinnis was born in Kingston, Ontario in 1867 and was a sailor on the Great Lakes where singing played a similar role to what it did on seafaring vessels. After contributing Great Lakes songs and sea songs to collector Joanna Colcord in the early 1920s, McGinnis enthusiastically set out to add to his own repertoire/collection with songs gathered from other singers. He collected many songs via mail and even corresponded with Minnesota singer Michael C. Dean who sent him song lyrics and (with the help of a friend) transcriptions of song melodies. Sadly, McGinnis fell ill in the late 1920s and never succeeded in publishing his book.

Another of McGinnis’s correspondents was folk song collector Robert Winslow Gordon. It was Gordon that ended up with McGinnis’s unpublished collection, “Songs of the Dogwatch,” which I accessed via the University of Oregon’s archival collection of Robert Winslow Gordon materials. McGinnis’s transcriptions of song melodies are somewhat erratic so I made some educated guesses in writing out the melody above.

McGinnis wrote songs himself and “Georgian Bay, Ho! Ho!” was most likely one of his own compositions, though it fits well into the traditional style. Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay was a key access point to the vast pine forests of Ontario. The sailors in the song set off from (and return to) Garden Island—just outside McGinnis’s native Kingston. Garden Island was the base of a major shipping and lumber operation for most of the 19th century. Logs were squared off in the woods, loaded on ships in Georgian Bay, shipped to Garden Island, gathered into rafts and floated to Quebec City and, finally, loaded on to ships and shipped to Britain. The same timber ships that took Canadian wood to Liverpool transported Irish immigrants to Canada on the return trip.

17 Nov

The Clipper Ship Dreadnaught (Laws D13)

The Clipper Ship Dreadnaught_Gordon

We have a flash packet, she’s a packet of fame,
She belongs to New York and the Dreadnaught’s her name;
She is bound for the ocean where the stormy winds blow,
Bound away on the “Dreadnaught” to the Westward we’ll go.

Now we are laying at the Liverpool dock.
Where the boys and the girls on the pier-heads do flock,
And they gave us three cheers while their tears down did flow,
Bound away on the “Dreadnanght” to the Westward we’ll go.

The “Dreadnaught” is lying in the river Mersy,
Waiting for the tug “Constitution” to tow us to sea,
She tows around the Black Rock where the Mersy does flow,
Bound away on the “Dreadnaught” to the Westward we’ll go.

And now we are howling on the wild Irish sea,
Where the sailors and passengers together agree,
For the sailors are perched on the yard arms, you know,
Bound away on the “Dreadnaught” to the Westward we’ll go.

Now we are sailing on the ocean so wide,
Where the great open billows dash against her black side,
And the sailors off watch are all sleeping below,
Bound away on the “Dreadnaught” to the Westward we’ll go.

And now we are sailing off the banks of New Foundland,
Where the waters are deep and the bottom is sand,
Where the fish of the ocean they swim to and fro,
Bound away on the “Dreadnaught” to the Westward we’ll go.

And now we are howling off Long Island’s green shore,
Where the pilot he bards us as he’s oft done before,
Fill away your main top sails, port your main tack also,
She’s a Liverpool packet, Lord God, let her go.

And now we are riding in New York Harbor once more,
I will go and see Nancy, she’s the girl I adore,
To the parson I’ll take her, my bride for to be,
Farewell to the “Dreadnaught” and the deep stormy sea.


This month we are back to Minnesota singer Michael Cassius Dean with another song where I have taken the text from Dean’s 1922 Flying Cloud songster and transcribed the melody from Dean’s singing on a 1924 field recording made by Robert Winslow Gordon. The Gordon recording of this song is quite hard to hear so I was also aided by Franz Rickaby’s 1923 transcription of Dean singing “The Clipper Ship Dreadnaught.”

The Dreadnought (originally spelled with an “o”) was a famous packet ship that carried both goods and passengers (including many immigrants to the US) between Liverpool and New York in the 1850s and 60s. She was celebrated for her great speed.


from the book From the Forecastle to the Cabin (1887) by Captain Samuel Samuels (the Dreadnought’s captain)

The song seems to be of American origin though it was no doubt modeled on similar English songs. Dean was one of many Great Lakes region singers who sang “The Dreadnaught” and it was also popular in the maritime provinces of Canada. The only version I have found from outside North America is one collected by Sam Henry from a Co. Donegal singer where the ship’s name has been changed to “The Zared” and the port of origin is “Londonderry” instead of Liverpool.

More info on this song available from the Traditional Ballad Index here.

20 Oct

Barney Blake

[as usual, I mis-remembered a few bits of the melody in this recording… I’d redo it, but the location was too good!]

Barney Blake

O me name is Barney Blake, I’m a roving Irish rake
I’m considered by my neighbors good and handy
I was brought up to the spade til I learned the tailor trade
And I think myself as good as Ben or Sandy.

O it’s Biddy Donahue sure I caught my eye on you
If you marry Barney why be damn you’ll never rue
You’re the apple of me eye and my Irish cocateau
Mr. Cupid’s knocked me stupid over Biddy Donahue

It’s at a wedding of Pat Malare, sure I first met Biddy there
As I sat beside her at the wedding supper
How I felt I couldn’t say when she handed me the tay
For my heart it melted like a lump of butter.

Now she’s handsome and she’s mild she’s a dacent father’s child
She’s the pride of all around our Irish nation
You would go from here to Spain to hear her sing Napolean’s Dream
And for dancing, boys, she has a lovely carriage.

Now some folks they do try, for to poke out Barney’s eye
But in this I’m sure they all will find a failure
She would not see me fooled, she’s as good as guinea gold
And she’ll marry none [hold on “none”] but Barney Blake the sailor.


This is another song I transcribed from a reel-to-reel recording made in Beaver Island, Michigan while I was at the American Folklife Center in Washington, DC this summer. Singer Dominick Gallagher (1867-1954) sang this for collector Ivan Walton in 1940.

A wonderful aspect of field recordings can be the chat caught on tape before and after songs. Walton made a point of asking Gallagher where he got each song and when he asked him about “Barney Blake,” Gallagher replied:

Gallagher:            “I learned that in the lumber woods about 45 or 50 years ago from a Canadian Scotsman.
Walton:                 “What lumber woods was that?”
Gallagher:            “Up in Grand Marais [pronounced Marase] on Lake Superior shores.”

The song itself seems to have its origins in the Irish music halls of the 1870s where I have found evidence of it being performed by (and perhaps written by) a song and dance duo by the names of Devlin and Tracy that were active in Boston and New York in that era. It was very common for singers to pick up Irish music hall songs and sing them unaccompanied in lumber camps. In fact, another version of Barney Blake was collected from Ottawa Valley singer O.J. Abbott.


CORRECTIONS FROM PRINT VERSION: I made a couple mistakes in the version published in the IMDA October newsletter and they are correct above. Here’s what I got wrong the first time around:

First, I misidentified the singer as John W. Green instead of Gallagher who actually sang the song for Walton.

Also, I was a bit over-eager to claim a Grand Marais, Minnesota connection for this song based on this mention of “Grand Marais on Lake Superior shores.” After I sent in my column to be published in the IMDA October newsletter, a friend reminded me that there is another Grand Marais on the southeastern shore of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is much more likely that Gallagher did his logging in the locality of the Michigan Grand Marais, not on Minnesota’s north shore.