Gordon Bok Gordon Bok 3 23 2010-02-15T15:42:00Z 2010-02-15T15:44:00Z 20 3681 20985 Timberhead 174 41 25771 9.6926 75

Herrings in the Bay

                              (p) © 2003 Timberhead Music


         Fishing was all around us here; we had a richness of it.  Many of my friends (including my brother) have spent some part of their lives in a local fishery.  I've seen some friends walk out of one fishery at forty looking for saner work and some grow old in another, saying that, over the years, they've "done pretty good."  So many stories.

         I've seen one fishery after another on two oceans go under, mostly in the name of greed, and there's no need of that.  When we lose a fishery, we lose an independent way of life, of living,  There's shame in that, for all of us.

         And the boats go then, of course.  The low, kindly handhaulers with their quiet, converted Chevy engines go first, then the double-ended seineboats and the dories, then the rugged little seiners that would find other work in other seasons.  And now the long, graceful sardine-carriers with their schooner lines are leaving us, one by one.  You'll hear some of their names in one of these pieces.  Each name is a book of people, of stories.

         So these songs, from Ireland, the Carolinas, Brazil, Colombia and the Pacific Northwest should give you some different perspectives of a way of life.



My singing often diverges from the original versions; we have printed the original when we could.   ~ Gordon



         To Jack and Belvea MacDonalad, Isle au Haut, who gave more that the world could ever haul away.  Thank you.


Recorder, engineered and mastered by Bruce Boege, Limin Music, Northport, Maine.

Mixed by Bruce Boege, Gordon Bok, and Anne Dodson.

Produced by Gordon Bok and Anne Dodson.

Carvings by Gordon Bok.

Photographs by Chris Pinchbeck.

Programming by Carol Rohl.

Graphic design by Ken Gross.


January Men and Then Some:

Gordon Bok, Tony Bok, Will Brown, David Dodson, Ken Gross, Jamie Huntsberger, Cindy Kallet, Bob Richardson, Carol Rohl, Forrest Sherman


Quasimodal Chorus:

Marie Weferling, Lynn Travis-Stancioff, Holly Torsey, Matt Szostak, Susan Shaw, Carol Rohl, Bob Richardson, John Pincince, Cindy Kallet, Jamie Huntsberger, Mary Ann Hensel, Ken Gross, Carney Doucette, Anne Dodson, Will Brown, Mimi Bornstein-Doble, Tony Bok, Mary Bok, Gordon Bok


Carol Rohl – harp



            Herring Croon 

                  © 1965 Gordon Bok, BMI


         One of my early songs (that I didn't throw back).  I forget what inspired it, but it's still fun to look at the world you think you know through others' eyes.


Gordon - laud



       Where do you go, little herring, what do you see, tail and fin?

         "Blue and green, cold and dark, seaweed growing high

         Hills a hundred fathom deep where the dead men lie

         Dogfish eyes and mackerel's eyes and they hunger after me

         Net or weir, I don't care, catch me if you can."


         Where do you go, little boat, tar and timber, plank and sail?

         "I go to green bays, lift them under me

         Cold, gray, combing seas come to bury me

         Rocky jaws and stony claws and they hunger after me

         Harbors cold, deep and bold, wish that I could see."


         What do you see, fisherman, poor old sailor, blood and bone?

         "Mackerel skies, mares' tails, reef and furl and steer

         Poor haul and hungry days, rotten line and gear

         Snow-wind and winter gales and oh, they hunger after me

         Net or weir, I don't care, catch you if I can."


         Where do you go, little herring, what do you see, tail and fin?

         "Blue and green, cold and dark, seaweed growing high

         Hills a hundred fathom deep where the fisherman lie

         Dogfish eyes and mackerel's eyes and oh, they hunger after me

         Net or weir, I don't care, catch me if you can."



         New last verse:  (sung on the album Other Eyes)

         Where have you gone, little herring, what have you seen, tail and fin?

         "Cold and black, dead and dark, homeland torn away

         Draggers staving everywhere, drug my garden dry

         Pair-trawl, midwinter-trawl; God they hunger after me

         Tore my home to hell and gone, there's no more place for me." 





                  Astoria Bar 

                           ©1997 Mary Garvey


         Mary grew up on the Columbia River between Washington and Oregon and knew the (primarily salmon) fisheries along its lower reaches.  A huge body of water comes down a broad estuary near Astoria, creating one of the most dangerous river-mouth bars in the world.  She says "This is just a fisherman put-putting down the river in a small boat on a day when the weather is very beautiful and the river is very blue.  I remember as a child in Astoria seeing these massive quantities of fish going up conveyor belts from the ships and almost being spat out.  The bit about rowing all night from Willapa Bay is straight out of a comment in a newspaper story… some woman said her grandfather had done that.  Sturdy people in these parts… still are; but the Finns were legendary."


January Men and Then Some

Gordon – Spanish guitar

Forrest Sherman – tin whistle


       It's not very far to Astoria's Bar

       But a very long journey it can be

       It can start at the mouth of the mighty blue river

       And end at the bottom of the sea


              But the River still shines and shimmers in the light

              As it did in our grandfathers' day

              When they rowed all night and fished in the morning

              And lived in Willapa Bay


       When the tide is rough so very, very rough

       So rough that you cannot stand

       It drives the little fish right into the nets

       And boats right into the sand


       In the wind and the rain, the labor and the pain

       We know what the fishing here is worth

       It's worth more than gold when they suck 'em from the hold

       It's worth all the treasures of the earth







The Boats of Peter's River

                           © 1995 Mary Garvey


         Mary said "I wrote [this song]when I went back to Peter's River a few years ago.  I had worked on a whale research study there some years ago through the University of Newfoundland, and wanted to see it again.  This was after the collapse of the cod fishery in Newfoundland, and fishermen couldn't even go out and catch a few fish for their families."

         She added "The bit about shooting their boats is true.  A really bad storm came up while I was there, and the men did go and shoot their boats to sink them so they would survive the storm."  I dare you to try this at home… GB

         Mary Garvey is a Pacific Northwest songwriter with more than 50 songs to her credit.  She currently resides in Washington State.


Gordon – 12-string guitar


         Not a boat in Peter's River or in all St. Mary's Bay

       The fishermen in rubber boots are staying home today

       Hanging out the laundry, hang out in the store

       And the Little Boats of Newfoundland are idle on the shore*

       The men of Peter's River are just barely getting by

       And the boats of Peter's River have their bottoms to the sky


       The wives of Peter's River are taking up the slack

       Fisheries has ended and it's never coming back   

       Sell a little knitting, set some broody hens

       No sooner does a hard day end, another one begins

       The wives of Peter's River are too strong to sit and cry

       And the boats of Peter's River have their bottoms to the sky


       The boys of Peter's River are as bright as boys can be

       Their eyes are on the highway instead of on the sea

       Where their fathers went before them is not where they must go†

       And the fate of Peter's River is not for us to know

              The boys of Peter's River are too young to wonder why

              And the boats of Peter's River have their bottoms to the sky


       The storms of Peter's River have pounded us for years

       Crashing in the harbour and smashing up the piers

       We've ridden out these storms before by shooting at our boats

       But we know this storm is different, - and we cannot stay afloat

              There's no nets in Peter's River laying out to dry

       And the boats of Peter's River have their bottoms to the sky.


* "Little Boats of Newfoundland" is the name of a Newfoundland song

† Sir Cavendish Boyle, Ode to Newfoundland:

       As loved our fathers, so we love/Where once they stood we stand

       This prayer we raise to Heaven above:/God guard thee Newfoundland



O Vento 

                           ©Doteval Caymmi


         I first heard this song in the 1950s, on the West Coast, but didn't learn it until Larry Holland introduced me to the music of Brazilian singer and composer Doreval Caymmi.  Thanks to Prof. Holland for this translation from the Brazilian Portuguese (Northeast dialect).


Gordon – Spanish guitar


              Let us go and call the wind

       Vamos, charmer o vento (2)

              Wind that fills the sail

       Vento que da na vela

                  Sail that lifts the boat

       Vela que leva o barco

              Boat that carries the man

       Barco que leva a gentre

              Man that hauls the fish

       Gentre que leva o peixe

              Fish that brings money

       Peize que da dinheiro

              Curriman ei, curriman lam bai

       (a sound of sorrow)

              Wind that fills the sail

       Vento que da na vela

              Sail that capsizes the boat

       Vento que vira o barco





El Pescador (The Fisherman) 

                           ©Patrocinio Ortiz


         A Guabina from Columbia


Gordon – 12 string guitar

Carol - harp



Jack Hinks 

                           Traditional Newfoundland: Quigley/Apollonio


         Many years back my old shipmate Geordie Jennings brought me a fine little pamphlet of songs.  It was Gerald  S. Doyle's "Old Time Songs of Newfoundland" (Third Edition 1955).  Doyle says  "The author …was 'Johnny Quigley', the bard from Erin, as he was wont to be styled by Newfoundlanders in the old days…"  The first time I ever sang this for Nick Apollonio, his immediate comment was to sing the "O was ye drunk…" lines to another traditional tune.


January Men and Then Some


         Ye muses so kind who are guided by wind

       On the ocean as well as the shore

       Assist a poor bard how to handle his card

       Without ceasing where billows do roar

       Not of cupid he sings, nor of country nor kings

       Nor of any such trifles he thinks

       But of seafaring, sail making, gambling, capering

       Grog-drinking heroes like Hinks


       When Jack comes ashore he's got money galore

       For he's seldom cut short of a job

       He can dress as well now as any can tell

       With a good silver watch to his fob

       For Jack in his life was ne'er plagued with a wife

       Though sometimes with the lassies he links

       That seafaring…


       When inclined for to spend he comes in with a friend

       And with pleasure he sets himself down

       And he tips up his glass and he winks at the lass

       And he smiles if she happens to frown

       Like some rattling true-blue when the reckoning is due

       On the table his money he clinks

       That seafaring…


       One evening last fall we fell in with a squall

       On the northernmost head of Cape Freels

       We were cast away without further delay

       At the thought, how my spirit it chills

       When cast on the rocks like a hard hunted fox

       Then on death and destruction he thinks

       That seafaring…


       Now Jack without fail was out in that same gale

       Having drove across Bonavist Bay

       Old Neptune did rail as they handed all sail

       And he had his two spars cut away

       But Providence kind who so eases the wind

       And on sailors so constantly thinks

       Saved that seafaring…


       Ah, but death it will come like the sound of a drum

       For to summon poor Jack to his grave

       There's naught he can do, for you all know 'tis true

       'Tis the same for both hero and slave

       And his soul soars aloft, so doleful and soft

       While the bell for the funeral clinks

       Oh peace to that seafaring…


       Nick's comment:

       Oh, was ye drunk or was ye blind

       When ye left your two fine spars behind?

       Or was it stivvering over the sea

       Took the two fine sticks from your decks away?

       To me too rye a, fall the diddle da

       Toorye, oorye, oorye a





Oh, No More

                           ® ©1994 Kevin Barry Evans: Modtrad Music SOCAN


         Bernie Houlahan of Moncton, N.B> taught me this poignant song about the death of the Newfoundland fisheries.

         Over the years, ears and miles, mu version has wandered quite a bit.  After I had recorded the song my way, Kevin, whom I had met years ago in New England, sent us the original words which we print here for your confusion.


Gordon - viol


       Years ago when I was young

         I cast my nets into the sun

       And with my father's hands upon my shoulder

       Hauled them home

       The nets moved like a living thing

       All from the codfish held within

       And homeward bound we'd laugh and sing

       An honest man's work done

       We'd throw our fortunes to the wind

       But now we'll just remember when


       (There were) lots of fish in Bonavist Harbour

       Oh, no more

       Lots of fishing in around here

       Oh, no more

       We'd throw our fortunes to the wind

       Me boys we'll not do that again

       Oh, no more


       The sea had turned my father's eyes

       A blue much deeper than the skies

       That granted us our daily prize

       King Cod, in all his glory

       And like my father I grew strong

       And proud I was to carry on

       For in his footsteps I belonged

       Ah, but that's another story

       For times change faster than the wind

       And now we just remember when


       Jack was every inch a sailor

       Oh, no more

       Four and twenty years a whaler

       Oh, no more

       For times change faster than the wind

       Me boys we won't fish here again

       Oh, no more


       My father's eyes are still as blue

       But his hands are softer than I knew

       There's nothing much for him to do

       But smoke and drink and remember

       And every day I sit and face

       The spectre of my father's face

       Dying at an icebound pace

       His heart and soul, December

       He'd give his life to ride the wind

       Instead we just remember when


       Lukey's boat was painted green

       Oh, no more

       Finest boat you've ever seen

       Oh, no more

       I was the boy who built the boats

       Oh, no more

       I was the boy who sailed them

       Oh, no more

       I'd give my life to ride the wind

       And to be fishing once again

       Oh, no more, Oh, no more,

              Oh, no more….




Hush Song

                           Words © 1924 Elizabeth Shane

                           Music © 1980 Gordon Bok


         Alouette Iselin sent me these words years ago: they seemed to beg to be sung, so I made this tune.


Gordon – 12-string guitar

Carol - harp


         Och, hush ye then, och hush ye

       There's herrin's in the bay

       An' you'll be the wee fisherman

       Someday - someday


       Och, rest ye then, och rest ye

       The herrin's do be small

       An' you're the boy when you'll be big

       Will catch them all


       Och, hush ye then, och hush ye

       The night is dark an' wet

       An' you too wee, o heart o' mine

       For fishin' yet


       Och, hush ye then, och hush ye

       'Tis cowld upon the sea

       But this wee house is warm itself

       For you an' me


       Och, sleep ye now, och sleep ye

       For sure a night will come

       When you'll be wakin' on the sea

       An' me at home



The Candlelight Fisherman

                           Traditional English


         I learned this from old Eric Ilot, "The Bristol Chanteyman" who graced our town for a few weeks some winters ago.  It was also collected by Bob Roberts.

         This old codger had a good dodge when he didn't want to go fishing; he's talking about a candle-lantern, a four-sided glass box with a candle in it, one side of which opens like a door.  If you want the candle to keep burning, you keep the door (pane) closed.


Gordon – Spanish guitar


         Now me Dad was a fisherman bold

       And he lived till he grew old

       'Cause he'd open the pane and pop out the flame

       Just to see how the winds do blow.


       Now me Dad he says to me

       If you're ever going to go to sea

       Do you open the pane and pop out the flame

       Just to see how the winds do blow.


       Now when the cold North wind do blow

       Then it's we lie snug below

       'Cause we open the pane…


       When the wind comes up from the East

       It isn't fit for man nor beast

       Still I open the pane…


       When the wind comes up from the West

       She's going to blowup rough at best

       So I open the pane…


       But when the South wind soft do blow

       Well there ain't enough wind to go

       Still, I open the pane…


       When me wife she says to me

       We'll starve if you don't go

       Well, I open the pane…

       So if you'd be a fisherman bold

       And you'd live till you grow old

       Do you open the pane…




Help Me to Raise 'Em

                           Traditional United States


         I head this first from the Menhaden Chanteymen of Beaufort, N.C. with whom I once had the pleasure of singing in Norfolk, VA.  This is a different version, from the Northern Neck Chantey Singers of VA.

         The ship sends two motorized net-boats out, with crew, to surround the fish with the net, the captain running one, the mate running the other.  When they've closed the purse, they  haul the fish up to the surface by hand with some help from the donkey engine on the main boat.  Slow, hard work, some days.


January Men and Then Some


         Will you help me to raise 'em boys,

          Oh honey

       Will you help me to raise 'em boys,

          Oh honey

       Will you help me to raise 'em boys,

          see her when the sun goes down


       All the weights on the mate boat


       I got a long tall yellow gal


       Her name is Evalina, boys


       All the weight's on the captain boat


       All the weight's on the donkey man



Round Our Skiff

                           Text: Traditional Hebrides

                           Music: © 1984 Kathy Wonson Eddy


         Kathy kindly sent me this song among many others a few years ago: she is a great source of liturgical choral music.  I have sung it with our chorus and another smaller group, but Carol and I wanted to keep it in our repertoire, so here's a third way to sing it.  Kathy lives in Randolph, Vermont.


Gordon – viol

Carol - harp


         Round our skiff's be God's aboutness

       Ere she try the deeps of sea


       Sea-shell frail for all her stoutness

       Unless Thou her helmsman be




Cannery Shed (Stella)

                           © 1992 Mary Garvey


         Another of Mary's Columbia River songs.  This is a good song to sing on the Maine coast where many of us still remember the sardine packing plants here.  Quite a few of my school friends had summer jobs in those plants. 

         Mary says "Stella is a beautiful little town on the lower Columbia.  The whole town was on piers when I was growing up."


Carol Rohl and January Men and Then Some – vocals

David Dodson – acoustic bass guitar


         I've worked all my life in the cannery shed

       And if I am dying or you think I am dead

       Don't bury my bones but put me instead

       In a can in the cannery shed


       The cannery shed perches over the river

       When the winter winds blow we freeze and we shiver

       When the boss comes around I just might have to give her

       My opinion of the cannery shed


       There's no time to rest and there's no time to linger

       And you'd better move sharp or you might lose a finger

       It's make you stomach turn if you knew everything here's

       Been canned in the cannery shed


       We chop off the heads and chop off the tails

       Scoop out the guts and throw them in the pails

       We won't get a rest till the next schooner sails

       From the dock at the cannery sheds


       LaFaye he went away and he wrote me a letter

       I tucked it up high in the sleeve of my sweater

       And it slipped and it fell and ended in the shredder

       And got canned in the cannery shed


       The cannery boy he's a very happy fella

       If he gets him a girl from the little town of Stella

       I would if I could but I'm not going to tell ya

       What goes on behind the cannery shed



Trochus Boats

                           Lyrics: Bill Scott/ Music: Roger Ilott © 1999

                           Restless Music APRA/AMCOS


         Bill lives in Warwick, Queensland, Australia, these days.  This is from one of his other eight lives.  He says "When working aboard the Commonwealth lighthouse vessel, Cape Leeuwin, in the early fifties, we often saw some of the pearling fleet anchored among the reefs of the Barrier where they harvested trochus shell.  The sound of the crews' voices in song drifting across the twilit still waters haunts me still with its beauty."


Gordon – 12-string guitar

Quasimodal Chorus - vocals


         I am living dry and placid now among encircling mountains,

       An old man still remembering the days that used to be,

       But I close my eyes and live again those days of sweat and laughter,

       When we worked the trochus luggers* in the western Coral Sea.


       Sailing in a black hulled lugger with a lookout at the masthead,

       You may drift along the coral cays and anchor where you please,

       In the glassy leeside waters of some rocky offshore island,

       Though the outer reef be trembling under pounding whitened seas.



       Laddie oh… Laddie ay, Laddie oh… Laddie ay. (2x)


       You may anchor calm and safely in the shallows over coral,

       Where the waters glimmer peacock in a hundred shifting shades,

       You can hear the rippling wavelets tinkle gently on the beaches,

       And the stays and braces strumming in the southeast trades.




       To the north of Lizard Island and to the south of Iron Range,

       In my dreams I am returning to the place where I would be,

       To the laughing Torres Straitsmen singing softly in the twilight,

       To the trochus lugger's anchorage in Princess Charlotte Bay.




       *Trochus is a large mollusk,  Perhaps the boast were once lug rigged, but I've seen pictures of ketches, and Bill says he's seen motor boats called luggers.



Where is the Light/Memory for Seal Island

                           © 1986 Elmer Beal/ © 1980 Gordon Bok


         Seal is a long, narrow island on the outskirts of Penobscot Bay.  We anchored there one day in the sardine carrier Ida Mae, waiting for dark when the herring would rise again.  Cleon took a nap and Frank and I went ashore and wandered around the island, ducking seabirds, cooking up a mess of periwinkles over a driftwood fire on the beach and dozing in the sun.  It was a grand, high, blue day, and the sea was very quiet.

         A couple of years later (1978) the whole island was burned, destroying hundreds of seabirds and their habitat.  A while later Elmer and I were on tour together, and he taught me his tune "Where is the Light" and I always associated it with that feeling of loss about the island.  But it was the memory of that day that gave me my tune.


Gordon – Spanish guitar




One More Morning (Memoir/Oratorio)

                           © Gordon Bok


         This piece is my attempt to remember of picture a single night of purse-seining for herring off the Maine Coast around (say) 1970.

         It begins in the afternoon when the fisherman has finished his 'day job' and is looking at a full night of chasing herring, through to the daylight, when the sardine-carriers are hauling the catch off to the cannery, and he can sort out his gear and go home.

         It is mostly conversations.  Some I've heard on fishing boats, some on marine radio, some over beers ashore and some imaginary, trying to get into the heads of those whose skill at finding and catching these spooky fish is truly uncanny.


January Men and Then Some




       Now give me strength at the end of the day

       out on the deep

       O give me strength to go back on the water

       down in the dark of the moon

       Out on the deep, out on the deep

       Out on the wild old ocean


       O give me fishes to soothe my sorrows

       out on the deep

       O give me darkness to soothe my herring

       down in the dark of the moon

       Out on the deep, out on the deep

       Out on the wild old ocean


       For there's snow, lord, there's snow on the wind

       out on the deep

       Snow on the wind before morning

       down in the haul of the tide

       Out on the deep, out on the deep

       Out on the wild old ocean


       And there's wind, lore, there's wind before morning

       out on the deep

       Wind on the cold tide coming

       down in the haul of the tide

       Out on the deep, out on the deep

       Out on the wild old ocean


       O give us one more morning

       Then will we lay this season down



       Somewhere out there I know they're traveling

       bring them to me

       Somewhere out there I know they're rising

       bring them to me

       Somewhere out there I feel them gathering

       bring them to me

       Oh, boys – easy!  easy


       Haul out your rings now easy

       Roll them out easy easy

       Come on around them easy

       Circle all round them easy



       Come on your purseline  bring them to me

       Bring them along now  bring them to me

       Bring'em all of 'em home  bring them to me

       Ah – come on a rising   fire below boys

       Coming on silver   fire below

       Come on a moving   fire below

       Come on a heaving   light the deep (hold 'em)

       O set out the light now   set out the light

       Fire up the ocean   light up the deep!



       Now, call on the carriers  come on the twine

       All you little ones, big ones  come on the twine

       O but come on her easy come on the twine

       O come on, Amanda come on the twine

       Come on her, Edward come on the twine

       Come on her, Grayling  come on the twine

       Come on her, Ida, come on the twine

       Come on her, Jacob,  come on the twine

       Come on her, Maryanne  come on the twine

       Come on her, Muriel  come on the twine


       O come on, Amanda  call on the boats now

       come on the twine

       Come on her, Edward  come 'round the islands

       come on the twine

       Come on her, Grayling  O mind all the hardware

       come on the twine

       Come on her, Ida  come take up your corkline

       come on the twine

       Come on her, Jacob  O come on her easy

       come on the twine

       Come on her, Maryanne  come lay out your hoses

       come on the twine

       Come on her, Muriel  I got a thousand hogshead!

       come on the twine



       Now their salt is all down and their hoses are in

       And their baskets are full and their hatches are on

       So they let go the twine and they kick themselves clear

       And they slide up the bay and they're headed for hom

       So we clear up the gear and we sort out the twine

       And we string out the boats and we head for the barn

       And it's home, home, home…



       O hey, she's making day!



       Somewhere out there I know they're traveling

       bring them to me

       Somewhere out there I know they're rising

       bring them to me

       Somewhere out there I feel them gathering

       bring them to me… O


       O give me one night's hauling

       out on the deep

       O let me see them rising

       down in the cold dark sea

       Out on the deep out on the deep

       Out on the wild old ocean


       O give us one more morning

       Then will we lay this season down