MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada
The Merchant’s Song
Leo Martin NFLD 2 Tape 10A Track 13
Trepassey Audio: No
Ballad

Attention ye good people come listen to my song

MARTIN: (Speaks) Gone…
LEACH: You sing 'It won't detain me long' l bet.
MARTIN: (Sings)

Attention Newfoundlanders come listen to my song
Concerning how we're treated I won't delay you long
Oh how you are put under I’ll have you understand
By the merchants and the government right here in Newfoundland

The merchant's they don't worry or neither do they care
How hard you have to work and toil your family for to rear
For they do get their money to lock up in their chest
And set back in their office and there to take a rest

The time will soon be coming when we will have to go
Out on the stormy ocean where many's the gale do blow
To try to earn a living by bitter frost and snow
And then return in winter and you're really on the dole

When you are clued up in the fall wit' not a bite to eat
You'll first go to your merchant and they'll make you retreat
They'll say they cannot help you go home and get the dole
And that'll mean a little more to add amongst their gold

Go to Matt Hollet's office wit' hunger on your brow
He'll look at you and say to you I cannot help you now
Go home and sell your cattle for when that all is gone
Come back into my office and I’ll (song interrupted here)

'Tis for Johnny Collins he got a [fluid?] speech
You can easy hear him talking when he's going out of reach
But when you get near a ship's crew you'll hear them all explain
Oh Johnny he's gone trouting and tomorrow we'll have rain

Besides the royal commissioners there is the _________
The people they are all busy in favour of the king
But l am not in favour or neither do I care
I know what Henry did when he married Anne Bolyn

Then Herod(?) took the collection as the merchant names wrote down
They say you'll never be in want when clothing come around
You would get rubber boots likewise caps and coats
But the pair of mits they sent to me was wool cut from a goat

There is a man above us I’m sure he's done no wrong
He is too pure and holy to mention in my song
But l know someday he'll judge them and he will judge them weIl
And send them all together on their honeymoon to hell

And to conclude and finish l have no more to say
I’m getting old and feeble my locks are turning grey
I’m getting old and feeble there's one thing l can say
l never was a robber when God calls me away


Notes


Sources: Similar basis as Doyle 1966: 61; Mercer 1979:156

Text: A song complaining about the treatment of fisherman by the merchants and government of Newfoundland. He complains that they will not help out a hungry man and will give them substandard clothing in the interest of making money. There are references to the English royalty, particularly King Henry VIII and Ann Bolyn as well as a biblical reference to Herod. The singer is sure that these merchants will be sent to hell on judgement day.

Tune: The text is through composed and the melody repeats with each verse. The last word is spoken. Speaking, instead of singing a final word or phrase is generally thought to indicate Irish influence on the singer or song. The meter is 4/4 and the key is E major.

All material on this webpage is copyright © 2004, Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive, Memorial University of Newfoundland. No unauthorized copying or use is permitted. For more information, follow this link.