This album was commissioned by NMHS and funded by TASA, TAPINTA and Clark Branson. All royalties will be used for future annual festivals of sea song and lore.
The sparkling summer skies of Seattle smiled down as July turned to August over Puget Sound. I was fortunate, along with the rest of the musical X Seamen's Institute, to join in a solid week of song to welcome ships and sailors of the American Sail Training Association's 1978 Tall Ships Pacific. And the company of English singer Louis Killen and the legendary Stan Hugill made the week unforgettable.
Greeting the US Coast Guard's majestic training bark Eagle, accompanied by a fleet of smaller square-riggers, yachts and wooden fishing vessels, was an international host of chantey singers, gathered from across the nation and across the sea to join in the choruses of sea music, from soulful forebitters to rousing capstan and halyard chanteys. After a week of singing and sailing in the matchless Northwest air and sea, we all came away with a feeling that sea music is a still-growing and living tradition-and we and the thousands in our audiences had shared a very special time together.
The tradition will continue to grow, as yearly festivals are being planned, the next one on the East Coast to be sponsored by the American Sail Training Association, the National Maritime Historical Society, and Tapinta.
Sleeve Note Excerpts
LOUIS KILLEN was born in Gateshead-on-Tyne in northeastern England. As the youngest of four sons in a family that looked upon singing as its main entertainment, he grew up with a catholic taste in music—one always leavened by the traditional songs that were sung and learned in the home, in the schools, from radio, records, and the people around him. On both sides of the Atlantic, he is an acclaimed performer of British traditional songs, ballads, and stories.
"Collected by A.L. Lloyd in the early 1950's from a crew member of an Antarctic whaling factory ship. The song dates back to the Scots fleets which fished the Green land whaling grounds prior to the 1830's. It says much for the song and the resilience of traditional music that it should survive one whaling era, to appear 120 years later in another."
Once more to Greenland we are bound for to leave you all behind.
Our boats and ship are green
And our blubber hooks are keenand we sail before the wintry wind.
We left our sweethearts and our wives a-weepin' by the pier.
Cheer up now my dears
For we soon will return, for it's only half a year.
And with tarry dress we reached Stromness where the boys did go ashore.
For with whalermen scarce
And the water even less why we had to take on more.
Sut when we reached the northern ice we crowded on full sail.
Each boat was manned
With a keen and lively band all for to hunt the whale.
But it's dark and dreary grows the night and the stars begin to dawn,
For with the catchin' of the whales
And the trying of the oil, it seems like we'll never return.
But our six months bein' done we tie up again and the''boys they go ashore.
For with plenty of brass
And a bonny, bonnie lass and we'll make them taverns roar.
And to Greenland's frost we'll drink a toast, and to them we hold so dear.
Then across the icy main
To the whaling grounds again, we'll take a trip next year.
GREY FUNNEL LINE
"This song was written by Cyril Tawney in 1959. The title is a euphemism for the Royal Navy, equating the color of its funnels with those of company emblems found on commercial shipping lines. The song, though romantic, does show the boredom, loneliness, and longing for home that afflicts many who work on modern screw-driven vessels, whether the sailors be naval or merchant marine."
Don't mind the wind or the rollin' sea,
The weary nights never trouble me.
The hardest time in a sailor's day
Is to watch the sun as it sinks away.
Chorus: One more day on the Grey Funnel Line.
Oh, the finest ship that sails the sea,
It's still a prison for the likes of me.
But if I had wings like Noah's dove,
Then I'd fly up harbor to the one I love.
Now there was a time when I was free
Like a floatin' spar on the rollin' sea.
But now that spar is washed ashore,
It comes to rest at my real love's door.
Every time I gaze behind the screws,
How I long to be in Saint Peter's shoes.
Then I'd walk on down that silvery lane
And I'd take my real love in my arms again.
Oh Lord, if dreams were always real,
Then I'd put my hands on that wooden wheel
And with all my heart I'd turn her round
And I'd tell the boys that we're homeward bound.
So I'll pass the time like some machine
Until the blue ocean turns to green.
Then I'll dance on down that walk ashore
And I'll sail the Grey Funnel Line no more.
I'll sail the Grey Funnel Line no more.