77 - Soon may the Wellerman come

Words by Traditional
Tune by Traditional

This is a New Zealand shore whaler's song, made by those who went to live on the archipelagos to catch whales from small boats. The whalers got their stake from agents of big companies like Weller Bros, of Sydney, Australia. The “Wellerman” is the company boat/skipper bringing supplies to the stations, and taking away the oil accumulated since the last visit. Shore whalers were paid in slops (ready made clothing), spirits and tobacco, not money. Many of them never made enough to return home and ended up farming or fishing on the little islands forever.

There was a ship that put to sea,
The name of the ship was the Billy of Tea
The winds blew up, her bow dipped down,
O blow, my bully boys, blow.

Soon may the Wellerman come
And bring us sugar and tea and rum.
One day, when the tonguin’ is done,
We’ll take our leave and go.

She had not been two weeks from shore
When down on her a right whale bore.
The captain called all hands and swore
He’d take that whale in tow.

Soon may the Wellerman come…

Before the boat had hit the water
The whale’s tail came up and caught her.
All hands to the side, harpooned and fought her
When she dived down below.

Soon may the Wellerman come…

No line was cut, no whale was freed;
The Captain’s mind was not of greed,
But he belonged to the whaleman’s creed;
She took the ship in tow.

Soon may the Wellerman come…

For forty days, or even more,
The line went slack, then tight once more.
All boats were lost (there were only four)
But still the whale did go.

Soon may the Wellerman come…

As far as I’ve heard, the fight’s still on;
The line’s not cut and the whale’s not gone.
The Wellerman makes his regular call
To encourage the Captain, crew, and all.