Australian Folk Songs

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The Waterwitch

Sung by J.H. Davies - Recorded by Lloyd Robson (1961)

She's a neat little packet from Hobart set sail
For to cruise 'round the westward for monster sperm whales;
Cruise in the westward, where the stormy winds blow,
Bound away in the Waterwitch, to the west'd we go.

Bound away, bound away, where the stormy winds blow,
Bound away to the west'd in the Waterwitch we go.

Oh it's early one morning just as the sun rose;
A man from the masthead cries out: There she blows!
We're away! cried the skipper, and springing aloft;
Three points on the lee bow and scarce three miles off.

Get your lines in your boats, my boys, see your box-line all clear,
And lower me down, my bully-boys, and after him we'll steer.
[missing lines]

Now the ship, she gets full, my boys; to Hobart we steer,
Where there's plenty of pretty girls and plenty good beer.
We'll spend our money freely with the pretty girls on shore,
And when it's all gone we'll go whaling for more.

Bound away, bound away, where the stormy winds blow,
Bound away in the Waterwitch, to the west'd we go.


Lloyd Robson: You're the last of the old whalers you reckon then?
Jack Davies: Last of the line of the old style of whaler.
Lloyd Robson: When did you go to sea first?
Jack Davies: I was seventeen, in eighteen hundred and ninety, that's the year of the big maritime strike.
Lloyd Robson: Oh yes, and you sailed out of Hobart town?
Jack Davies: Hobart Town and round the west of Tasmania and the west of New Zealand, up in the great Australian Bight, those parts you know.

The Waterwitch was a whaling ship based in Hobart from 1860. Originally launched from the Pembroke naval dockyard as HMS Falcon, she was used as a slave-chaser off the coast of Africa before being bought and renamed by Hobart shipowner Alex McGregor.

In Whalers Out of Van Diemen's Land, Harry O'May writes: 'The Witch, as she was known locally, was a weatherly vessel, and was one of the very few that could beat to windward with a whale lashed alongside ... Waterwitch came in after eight month's voyage under Captain W. Folder, with 52 tuns of oil.

She had had a boat smashed by the flick of a whales tail. The old barque, still under the blue and white gridiron flag of Alex McGregor, was earning very satisfactory dividends.' The Waterwitch made her last voyage in 1895, the second-last whaler to sail out of Hobart.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory