Currier & Ives engraving of whalers pursuing a whale

Brave Boys

Submitted by Ed Trickett

I spent only one evening with E. G. Huntington at his home on Martha's Vineyard. That was in 1965. It was a truly wonderful evening of music and conversation, during which Gale played for me this version of the "Greenland Whale Fisheries" which he called "Brave Boys."

I didn't have a tape recorder or my photographic memory with me, so he wrote out the melody and sent it to me some months later, along with a small booklet of The Dukes County Intelligencer, May, 1961, which was published by the Dukes County Historical Society in Edgartown, Massachusetts.

The booklet was filled with songs Gale had collected from the Tilton family, a family famous for their singing as well as for their whaling. The words to "Brave Boys" were in it, but the tune Gale wrote out for me was different from that in the book. Of the two, I chose the one he had sung for me that night, and am proud to be able to pass it on.

Listen to Ed Trickett singing "Brave Boys:"

"Brave Boys" sheet musicClick here to download a PDF of the sheet music.

Lyrics

It was eighteen hundred and thirty-nine,
On the thirteenth day of May,

We weighed our anchor and set our sail
And for Greenland bore away, brave boys,

For Greenland bore away.

The Captain's name it was William Moore,
And the mate's name was the same.
The ship she was called the Lion so bold,
As she plowed the raging main, brave boys,
She plowed the raging main.

Oh, the mate he stood in the top cross tree,
And a fine looking man was he,
A-searching the horizon with a spy-glass in his hand,
"It's a whale, a whale, a fish, brave boys,
It's a whale, a fish," cried he.

And the Captain he stood on the quarterdeck,
A fine looking man was he,
"Overhaul, overhaul, let your davit tackles fall,
And lower your boats to the sea, brave boys,
Lower your boats to the sea."

The boats being lowered and the whale being struck,
He gave one flurry with his tail,
And down went the boat and them six jolly tars,
Never to rise any more, brave boys,
No, they never come up any more.

When the Captain he heard of the loss of his men,
It grieved his heart full sore,
But when he heard of the loss of that whale,
it grieved him ten times more, brave boys,
grieved him ten times more.

Oh, the summer months are past and gone,
And cold winter's coming on,
So, we'll head our ship back to New Bedford
And the pretty girls standing on the shore, brave boys,
pretty girls standing on the shore.

Ed Trickett writes: I have been collecting and performing folk music for over 60 years. My early musical influences were Frank Proffitt, Larry Older, Bob and Evelyn Beers, George and Gerry Armstrong, and Howie Mitchell. Later I learned from and sang with a number of other musicians whose commitment and talent were/are extraordinary: Gordon Bok, Bob Coltman, Cathy Barton and Dave Para, and Ann Mayo Muir. My recording efforts began in 1964 with the Golden Ring (Folk-Legacy #16), a loose collection of friends who used to gather in the living room of George and Gerry Armstrong in Wilmette, Illinois. I’ve been part of 4 other ensemble recordings since then, all with Folk Legacy Records, recorded 4 solo albums, and, during the 26 years I sang with Gordon Bok and Ann Mayo Muir, ten other CDs. “Brave Boys” is a traditional song I learned from Gale Huntington at his house on Martha’s Vineyard in 1965.

     
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