The Merman, or The Pretty Maid With a Tail

This is a Broadside ballad published by T. Pearson, Manchester, England, 1850s.  Melody adapted by Jos. Morneault – Dec 2018.  Obscure little ditty that pops up in the ballad tradition of Maritime Canada and even then not encountered so often.

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Twas in the month of January, away in the southern seas,
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Our ship lay at anchor near a coral reef, awaiting for a breeze;
Our captain he was down below, and the men lay all about,
When from under our bow we heard a cry and then a regular shout.

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Chorus:  Blow ye winds, I oh, blow ye winds y’heave ho.
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Clear away the morning dew, and blow ye winds, I oh!

“A man over-board,” the watch cried out and forward all of us ran,
When hanging on to our best bower chain was a jolly old bluff merman;
His hair was red, his eyes was black, and his mouth as large as three,
And the long green tail he sat upon was a waddling down in the sea.

“Hallo!” our mate called out so bold, “what cheer, messmate,” said he
“Well I wants to see thy captain; I’s a question to ask of he.”
Our captain then he came on deck and looked at the waters blue,
Saying, “tell me, my man, as fast as you can, what favour can I do for you.”

“Ye’ve dropp’d thy anchor afore me house and blocked up me only door,
And me wife can’t get out to roam about, nor me chicks one, two, three, and four;
‘Twould break thy heart to hear them groan and the row they’ve had with me,
For I’ve been out all night at a small fish fight at the bottom of deep blue sea.

“The anchor shall be hove at once and your wife and chicks set free,
But I ne’er saw a fish from a sprat to a whale till now that could speak to me;
Your figure head’s like a sailor bold; you speak like an Englishman.
Where the devil’d you get that wonderful tail? Come tell me as true as you can.”

“A long time ago from the ship “Hero” I fell overboard in a gale,
And I saw down below where the sea-weeds grow such a lovely girl with a tail.
She sove* my life and I made her me wife, and me legs changed instantly
For I married a pretty mermaid, at the bottom of deep blue sea.


  • Sove is an archaic word that means “saved”; past-tense of “save”.  Still in use in rural areas in England and eastern Canada.