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.

Jos. Morneault


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