By the time this pops up, we’ll likely have been singing this at one of our local pubs, not least as a kind of hymn for those at sea tonight. There will be some who are out there either because it’s their duty, of course, and others because they have somehow got caught in the wrong place. . Great good luck to them all.
By the way, the Yorkshire Garland group have an informative entry for this song on their website – including a reminder that it was Fiddlers Green songwriter John Conolly who found the old broadside ballad in a library, and the astonishing suggestion that the tune is a re-working of Jingle Bells, which was first popular around the time the balled was written.
I gather this report appeared in the Hull Times on the 2nd of March, 1889.
‘As day after day passes and no tidings arrive of the missing Grimsby smacks, it is beginning to be realized that the gale of the 9th will prove one of the most disastrous to the Grimsby fishing trade on record. All together nearly a dozen fishing vessels carrying between 60 and 70 hands are missing.
Most of these vessels were only provisioned for 8 or 9 days and many of them have been out now for over a month. Of the safety of 7 of them all hope has now been abandoned.
Portions of the wreck from the Kitten have now been picked up at sea and brought into port, and the British Workman was seen to be reduced to a mere wreck by a heavy sea on the morning of the gale. Many of the men who have been lost leave wives and families and an immense amount of distress will be caused among the fishing population.
‘The total number of vessels lost will, it is feared, be near 15 and between 70 and 80 lives of men and boys.’