MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada
Eastern Light
Jim Rice NFLD 1 Tape 4 Track 12
Cape Broyle Audio:
Ballad / fishing the Grand Banks Musical notation available

Most sad was my misfortune in the year of '63
When I shipped on board of a fishing vessel out of a drunken spree
I shipped on board the Eastern Light as you might understand
For to go out on a seal trip to the banks of Newfoundland

McLowe being our skipper's name a hero stout and bold
We had twelve other souls on board besides myself alone
We heist up all our canvas when we left Gloucester port
And the girls they wove their handkerchiefs as we sailed out that morn

We brought a jar of rum on board which mustered all our crew
We drank a health to the Gloucester girls in bidding them adieu
'Twas East by South we steered me boys the Grand Banks for to find
We being employed at our fishing gear some halibut to …

We ranged around those foggy banks for the space of eighteen days
We boarded a couple of Frenchmen but no brandy could we raise
My curse on rum and brandy too as I oft times said before
Sure I might have led a sober life I might be still on shore

It's early every morning our cook so loud do call
"Get up and eat your breakfast boys and then go haul your trawls."
We scarce get time to light our pipes when over our dories go
We got to make three sets today let the wind blow high or low

And if you lose a moorling a buoy-line or a knife
Indeed you will be charged with it and you might bet your life
And if you come to stand night watch be sure and stand the deck
And if anything is missing there you'll find it on your check

Next early Monday morning I heard our skipper shout,
"Get up and eat your breakfast boys and break your anchors out.
Our provisions are getting kind of scarce we can no longer stay
So give her the big mainsail boys and get her in under way!"

It's now our anchor is on our bow our ship she's homeward bound
And when that we reach Gloucester port we'll hand the glasses round
We'll go down to Johnny the Logger's and it's there we'll spend one night
And we'll drink a health to the Gloucester girls likewise to the Eastern Light

(Speaks): Never heard that song?


Sources: Laws D11; Roud 2235


Text notes: Gloucester sailors sing on to sail with the "Eastern Light" to the Grand Banks.

Tune notes: This beautiful tune that begins on the seventh degree of the mixolydian mode (G to G on a contemporary keyboard) is performed with a great deal of rhythmic freedom. While the form is the conventional abba of many broadside tunes, the singer does not replicate the second line exactly, but avoids the modal quality of line two in line three by changing the pitch content to a pentatonic pattern.

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