The Shoals Of Herring lyrics

Ewan MacColl

With our nets and gear we're farin'
On the wild and wasteful ocean.
It's there on the deep that we harvest and reap our bread
As we hunt the bonnie shoals of herrin'

O it was a fine and a pleasant day
Out of Yarmouth Harbour I was farin'
As a cabin-boy on a sailing lugger
For to go and hunt the shoals of herrin'

O the work was hard and the hours were long
And the treatment, sure it took some bearin'
There was little kindness and the kicks were many
As we hunted for the shoals of herrin'

O we fished the Swarth and the Broken Bank
I was cook and I'd a quarter sharin'
And I used to sleep standing on my feet
And the dream about the shoals of herrin'

Well we left the home-grounds in the month of June
And to Canny Shields we soon was bearin'
With a hundred cran of the silver darlings
That we'd taken from the shoals of herrin'

Now you're up on deck, you're a fisherman
You can swear and show a manly bearin'
Take your turn on watch with the other fellas
While you're following the shoals of herrin'

In the stormy seas and the living gales
Just to earn your daily bread you're darin'
From the Dover Straits to the Faroe Islands
While you're following the shoals of herrin'

Well I earned me keep and I paid me way
And I earned the gear that I was wearin'
Sailed a million miles, caught ten million fishes
We was following the shoals of herrin'

Song Details

A Shoal of Herrings

Writer: Ewan MacColl

Brief: The song is about the life of a fisherman. It was based on the life of Sam Larner, a fisherman and traditional singer from Winterton, Norfolk, England.

Yarmouth - also known as Great Yarmouth, is a coastal Town on Norfolk, England
Swarth and the Broken Bank - fishing grounds
cran - a measure of herrings
Canny Shields - North Shields on the Tyne
Dover Strait - is the strait at the narrowest part of the English Channel, marking the boundary between the Channel and North Sea, separating Great Britain from continental Europe.
Faroe Islands an island chain between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, approx. halfway between Norway and Iceland, 320 kilometres / 200 miles north-northwest of Great Britain.
Shoal - school of fish
fellas - fellows

Category: Ballad

Covers: The Spinners, The Dubliners, The Clancy Brothers, The Corries, Three City Four, Astrid Nijgh, Schooner Fare, Patrick Clifford and Breabach.

Album by Ewan MacColl - Black And White (Nov 19, 1996)

Ewan MacColl

Born: James Henry Miller on the 25th January, 1915 in Broughton, Lancashire, England
Died: 22nd October, 1989 at age 74 in in Brompton, London, England
Active Years: 1930-1989
Occupation: Folksinger, playwright, activist

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