Ballina Whalers


Harry Robertson via Nic Jones again and Jon says, “This was sung at the Colpitts in Durham, I think by Robin Dale. It works brilliantly as an unaccompanied chorus song, although most people associate more with Nic Jones’s driving guitar version.”

I always have this troubled feeling about the whaling songs, which I come to realise is a bit daft amongst the general murder and mayhem of folk ballads. Given the last three feature heartbreak, destitution and separation and a ghostly apparition of a drowned lover it seems silly to get sensitive about whales, but I can’t help it. To its credit this is written by a whaler and spares little of the gory detail and I agree with Jon about the drive of Nic’s version. Perhaps I need a few lusty choruses, as suggested, by means of whaling-song-aversion-aversion-therapy. It’s just that I get to the tail thrashing through the deck bit and I’m all for the whale getting away and everyone ending up drowned. Hmmmmmm!
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26 Responses to “Ballina Whalers”

  1. Joe Offer says:

    You’ll find a very interesting discussion of this song at Mudcat:

    -Joe Offer-

  2. Simon says:

    Thanks Joe, one for the weekend as there’s so much that looks interesting there.

  3. Maurice says:

    Terry Conway and Liz Law do a fine version of this.
    Not unacompanied but without the drive og NicJones. A good compromise.

  4. Mike New says:

    is it Ballina or Baliner Whalers? A bit confused.

  5. Shelley says:

    I share the discomfort about whaling songs, likewise fox hunting ones, but many are also important documents of social history and that is the case here. Still a good song, whatever my misgivings about the subject matter.

  6. Sue says:

    I can’t feel too affected by the songs, they reflect the past, I cannot change that, to deny it would be to deny our past, to romanticise it, the people who sang these songs were not the wealthy, they were people who struggled to survive, to work and live in conditions we wouldn’t tolerate. They would die in accidents, wives die in childbirth, children died young, that they found anything to sing about is miraculous
    Crewing a whaling ship would not be an easy life, but it gave you a life, read Nathaniel Philbricks In the Heart of the Sea for an expose.
    And Mountains nantucket Sleighride. Our ancestors enjoyed their songs and music, we should embrace it in the same way.
    I do not condone cruelty to animals, seal culling or whaling, these things should cease.

  7. Simon says:

    I do agree Sue and my comments were more about my own sensibilities and the realisation that they may be somewhat unbalanced. I suppose what I was driving at is that with the luxury of not having to do it in order to survive or provide for a family, it’s very easy for me to take an anti whaling stance. (Although excess and greed has undoubtedly put an entire species at risk, see also the Bison and Passenger Pigeon.) At the same time I haven’t complained about the cruelty visited on many of the human subjects of many of these songs and nor does their untimely demise raise the same squeamishness. I suspect, however, most people here will know where I stand on ‘hard times.’ But even then, laments for the decline of mining, fishing and so forth are tempered by the bigger environmental picture, once more with the benefit of personal distance. Aaah, the moral dilemas of C21st living. Anyway, before I tie myself in more knots, it is a great song and well sung.

  8. Jane Ramsden says:

    On board with all the points made above. I can feel the fisherman singing out his work in this one, Jon – well sung – and understand no room for other sentiment as per the whale’s side of the equation in those days.

    Now we can even sponsor them through the Whale Foundation, if it’s still going strong. I sponsored one called Cat’s Paw after a marking on its fin. No surprise there then! Also another very large female called Bat, to suit my Gothic tendencies… but mostly because she consumed 1 million calories a day… ‘A woman after my own heart,’ I thought! Hahaha!

    I sent a friend sponsorship of a whale for his birthday. He woke his wife with the words, ‘Jane has bought me a whale for my birthday.’ ‘I’m dreaming,’ his wife replied. ‘It’s called S0D,’ he added. ‘Now I know I’m dreaming,’ said his wife. Hahaha! Don’t want AFSADDERS getting too down about whales – some good work being done out there – so that’s lightened fins up! HAHAHAHA!

    S0D = scar on dorsal!

  9. mederma stretch mark therapy…

    […]Ballina Whalers « A Folk Song A Day[…]…

  10. Peter Walsh says:

    Mention of Nic Jones above reminds me that in February it will be 30 years since that life threatening accident. But he managed to sing in this reunion with the Bandoggs in 2010:

  11. muzza (N.W Surrey) says:

    Couple of things for me to ponder today………
    I wonder how we got the saying “Having a whale -of-a-time!”.not much fun for the whale
    and (see above)…..”mederma stretch mark therapy”…….hmmmmmmm

  12. Daina says:

    Really depressing. Glad when the season is at an end and all the men go and drink beer, a slightly more cheerful verse. Still against whale-hunting but those hunters had a hard life although not as hard as the poor whales. Not a happy folk song!

  13. Tedd O'Ramsden says:

    Wind me up and set me off, Muzza!

    The blue whale being the biggest creature on earth, a ‘whale of’ anything is ‘a large amount of’ it. As well as ‘a whale of a time,’ people used to say ‘a whale of a lot’ and ‘a whale of a job.’ Allegedly, it’s US slang from around 1910. I’ve used the expression as in ‘a whale of a laugh’ too.

    Ref stretch mark therapy, I expect that’s because I wrote about the whale called SOD above, standing for ‘scar on dorsal.’ I’d like to see them try!

  14. Tedd O'Ramsden says:

    Enjoyed the song again (despite never liking the bloody reality) sung with plenty of gusto there, Jon. Now have the Nic Jones’ version as well. I like his driving pace of delivery, but no lack of it here either.

    PS Daina: Glad we have put the 192 queries to bed! Hahahahahaha!

  15. Daina says:

    @ Tedd: One message for you this morning from me on FB. Here SOD stands for “Son of Diana” when necessary. I am afraid that whale hunting is inclined to make me wail, along with hunting of any creatures. I even like spiders and take them outside if I find one in the house. Aren’t I brave!!!!

    : John: Hope you haven’t still got a hangover, and I like suet puddings.

  16. Maggie says:

    I had a wonderful holiday last year in Iceland. One of the highspots was a visit to the Whaling Museum in Husavik. I really hadn’t expected to enjoy it at all. As well as the information about people’s lives – and some gory bits about the whales – one of the things I really enjoyed was a video about whaling. It went through a lot of the economics – income generated, jobs created – and showed clearly that far more money is made and jobs created by whale watching than hunting. The film included interviews with people who had been whalers who now work on watching boats talking about their fascination for whales but enjoying the watching work much more than the hunting and killing. Obviously these options weren’t available in the past, but are now.

    It also showed how the whaling industry gives free whale meat to schools in Japan and to restaurants so that people are encouraged to get a taste for whale meat thus encouraging a market for it. Fascinating stuff. As to this song – well sung Jon.

  17. John Biggs (Welsh Marches) says:

    Thank you for your concern Daina; happily I am now once more bright and bushy tailed. However still not very keen on yesterdays song.
    Todays song is a different kettle of fish. (Not the best turn of phrase)
    With the exception of a few who are rightly vilified, most countries have now consigned whaling to seafaring history. Songs like this and The Little Pot Stove which Jon sang at the end of December form part of the historical record of this industry. It was cruel in every respect. To the beautiful animals who were the victims, and to the men involved who suffered the most appalling hardships.
    Hopefully in these more enlightened times, the songs along with all the written accounts and photographs will help in the eventual total eradication of whaling for ever.
    So, do not shy away from whaling songs, they still have work to do.

  18. Diana says:

    @John: Glad you have recovered and are back to normal.

    Have read your comments with interest and I have added a few comments of my own on the next song, which seems not a lot has changed in these so-called enlightened days.

  19. Gordon says:

    I’m surprised no one’s mentioned the version by Faustus.
    Wonderful vocals from Saul Rose.
    I just hope it’s on their set list when they return to the festival scene this summer.

  20. cat in catford…

    […]Ballina Whalers « A Folk Song A Day[…]…

  21. Diana says:

    Not much changes as far as whaling is concerned. Doubt it will ever!

  22. Old Muzza(NW Surrey.UK says:

    ‘Forget your snapper and your prawn’………………that’s a phrase to toy with!

  23. OldMuzzaNWSurreyUK) says:

    Drat………I was halfway there and realised that I’d got me snapper but left me damn prawn behind!

  24. Old Muzza(NW Surrey UK) says:

    Yup….several countries still whaling…tried to post a link but I think I got moderated

  25. OldMuzza (NW Surrey UK) says:

    Diana gives some details of Whaling countries in the comments section of tomorrows song…another Whaling song.

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