The Hills of Isle au Haut

(c) 1970 Gordon Bok

Gordon Bok is a prolific songwriter from Maine in the maritime tradition and a close personal friend of Cliff.  I have heard this song performed by many singers but it wasn’t until I heard Danny Spooner sing it with concertina that it became something on my list… I perform it usually during the first set when people haven’t imbibed enough to gear up the evening.  Gordon wrote this about the song…

I made this after a trip as mate in the old Brixham Trawler Provident in 1964 (I believe).  The Plymouth here is in England, Pedro Martir is a mountain on the coast of Spain where we made land, Cascais is a town down the river from Lisbon, and Isle au Haut is a mythical island off the coast of Maine.”  Well, perhaps “mystical” was what he intended… If you’ve the money, there is an inn on the island one might stay at.

G               C         D
It’s away and to the westward
C            D                 G
Is the place a man should go
G                   C            D
Where the fishing’s always easy
C          D         G
They’ve got no ice or snow

C      D               G
But I’ll haul down the sail
C        D            G
Where the bays come together
C         D            G
Bide away the days
C           D         G
By the hills of Isle au Haut
Now, the Plymouth girls are fine
They put their hearts in your hand
And the Plymouth boys are able
First-class sailors, every man

Now the trouble with old Martir
You don’t try her in a trawler
For those Bay of Biscay swells
Will roll the head from off your shoulder

And the girls of old Cascais
They are strong across the shoulder
They don’t give a man advice
And they don’t want to cook his supper

Now the winters drive you crazy
And the fishing’s hard and slow
You’re a damn fool if you stay
But there’s no better place to go