Three Jolly Fishermen

I learned this great ditty from the singing of John Roberts with the group Ye Mariners All.  From Roy Palmer in The Oxford Book of Sea Songs (1986), here’s a little history: “Steve Gardham recorded this from Thomas Calvert of Runswick Bay, North Yorkshire, in 1971.  The song, which seems to have been a particular favourite in the Whitby area (though Cecil Sharp had a version from Middlesex, attached to a dance), was issued on a broadside printed in 1837-8 by W. and T. Fordyce, Newcastle, under the title of Caller Herring.  This in turn loosely derives from a song of the same name by Lady Carolina Nairne (1766-1845), published in 1824 to a tune by Nathaniel Gow (1777-1831), based on ‘the original Cry of the Newhaven fish wives, Selling their fresh herrings in the streets of Edinburgh’.  Gow’s tune was issued as a shilling music sheet for piano in c.1802.”


[solo] We are three jolly fishermen
[all] We are three jolly fishermen
We are three jolly fishermen
While the merry, merry bells do ring.

[solo] Make haste, make haste.
[all]You be too late.
[solo] What fish, my dear.
[all] I cannot wait

For my fine fry of herring,
My bonny silver herring,
Mind how we sell them
While the merry, merry bells do ring.

We cast our nets upon the rocks, &c.

We bring them fresh to market, &c.

There’s white and speckled bellied ‘uns, &c.

We sell them three for fourpence, &c.

We are three jolly fishermen, &c.


A buddy of ours – Salty Walt – and his Rattlin’ Ratlines performing this very song:

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