The Longest Song Wiki

Originally written by Francis Forbes in 1820, it is believed to have been one of the earliest songs to mention the Canadian province, and has a storied history as a march for the Royal Newfoundland Regiment during World War I.

It has been sung to many tunes, but the most common is a popular tune known as "Up The Pond", in recent years a version set to "Van Dieman's Land" has been performed; which is the version performed by the Longest Johns and popularized by Great Big Sea.

The song's title and refrain likely refer to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, a group of underwater plateaus located to the south east of the province where the Labrador Current mixes with the waters of the Gulf Stream, frequently resulting in extreme fog and weather conditions. The Grand Banks are widely considered to be one of the foggiest places in the world.

The Longest Johns recorded the song on their album Between Wind and Water.

Factoids

Those who are not aware of the unique culture of Newfoundland often have difficulty using what is considered the 'correct' pronunciation of the province's name. A common rule of thumb used by Newfoundlanders to instruct people in this is "Newfoundland rhymes with understand." The correct way to pronounce the province's name places emphasis on the "Land" syllable, with the d in the pronunciation taking a silent role. a napkin-phonetic breakdown would read "noof'n-Land."

  • Fo'c'sle head: A highly shortened version of Forecastle, the upper deck of a sailing ship forward of the Foremast, of which the "head" would be the foremost part.
  • Holystone: A soft and brittle sandstone formerly used by the Royal Navy for cleaning the wooden decks of ships.
  • Nor'wester: a shortened version of 'north-wester'. A wind blowing from out of the North West.
  • Oilskins: clothing made waterproof by application of oils and waxes.
  • Reef: A term for using Reef-tackles to temporarily (and quickly) shorten the area of sail exposed to the wind. Also a term for a shelf of coastal coral and rock which, though below water's surface, is shallow enough that the vessel could go aground.
  • Tops'l yard: A highly shortened version of Topsail, the second square sail up a mast in a ship. A tops'l yard refers to the horizontal spar from which the sail is suspended.

Lyrics

These lyrics are based on the version performed by the Longest Johns on their album, Between Wind and Water, but do not significantly differ from those written by Forbes in 1820.

(Sailor response in bold)

Me bully boys of Liverpool I'll have you to beware,
When you sail in them packet ships no dungaree jumpers wear;
But have a good monkey jacket all ready to your hand,
For there blow some cold nor'westers on the Banks of Newfoundland

{Chorus}
We'll scrape her and we'll scrub her, with holystone and sand,
For there blow some cold nor'westers on the Banks of Newfoundland

Well we had Jack Lynch from Ballynahinch, Mike Murphy and some more,
and I tell you well, they suffered like hell on the way to Baltimore; (To Baltimore!)
They pawned their gear in Liverpool, and sailed as they did stand,
But there blow some cold nor'westers on the Banks of Newfoundland

{Chorus}

Well the mate he stood on the fo'c'sle head and loudly he did roar,
Come rattle her in, me lucky lads, you're bound for America's shore; (America's shore!)
Come wipe the blood off that dead man's face, and haul or you'll be damned,
For there blow some cold nor'westers on the Banks of Newfoundland

{Chorus}

And now it's reef and reif, me boys, with the canvas frozen hard,
At each mountain pass every mother's son on a ninety-foot tops'l yard; (Tops'l yard!)
Never mind about boots and oilskins, but haul or you'll be damned;
For there blow some cold nor'westers on the Banks of Newfoundland.

{Chorus}

And now we're off the hook, me boys, and the land is white with snow,
And soon we'll see the paytable and we'll spend the whole night below; (Night below!)
And on the docks, come down in flocks, those pretty girls will say,
Well it's snugger with me than on the sea, on the Banks of Newfoundland.

{Chorus x2}