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To the Riverhead la'nchin' on Jubilee Day,
Came the men of St. Mary's and all 'round the Bay;
They came from the Gaskiers, Coote's Pond and Mall Bay,
To help Uncle Steve to get his craft underway.
There was custom-house officer, magistrate, too,
They both turned out in style that new boat to view;
There was Gunrod, Ned Fagan and black Billy Joe,
They all to the chorus of Lord, let 'er go.
So we had Billy Hanlon for a shanty man, too,
And all the Bay knows just what Billy can do;
He sings in the coves in the fall of the year,
All the gulls from Gull Island comes out for to hear.
So he sang Johnny Coaker, they pulled 'er along,
And all the boys present were pulling so strong;
When Mrs. McGrath broke her arm on her bow,
We all hove together when Billy said, "Now!"
So after hard heaving she got underway,
She slipped down the way and right out in the Bay;
She went out so neat, oh, you'd think 'twas a charm,
To see her slide out into Riverhead Arm.
So we're all so delighted to see such a thing,
We wished him good future, we cheered for the king;
We cheered for His Majesty loudly and strong,
We wished him a future both happy and long.
And as for Steve Fagan to whom you'd wish,
At seventy-two still a devil for fish;
A true fishing skipper out after a load,
To train his three b'ys, Gus, Leo and Joe.
Now as for Steve's b'ys they are very well known,
If they were like all are they would stay at home;
But they fished out of Boston with old Gerry Shea,
They built their own houses and paid their own way.
Now as for the boat, we can wish her the best,
I know P.B.'s building can stand a good test;
We'll wish her good luck as years rolls around,
Full hatches, fair landings, and a fair holding ground.
Long life to the boat and good luck to the crew,
My song it is finished, my bottle is, too;
But 'twill be a long time till down in the Bay,
Like the Riverhead la'nchin' on Jubilee Day.
Collected in 1951 from Nicholas Davis of St. Shott's, NL, and published in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada © 2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).
A variant was collected in 1961 from Patrick Rossiter of Fermeuse, NL, by Kenneth Peacock and published as The Riverhead La'nchin' On Jubilee Day in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Volume 3, pp.882-883, by the National Museum of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.
Kenneth Peacock noted that Riverhead is in St. Mary's Bay about twenty miles from Fermeuse, straight across the barrens of the Avalon Peninsula, but is much farther around the coast by road or boat. (For a quite different native ballad with a St. Mary's Riverhead locale see The Loss Of The Eliza.)
Note - As originally transcribed by MUNFLA from the MacEdward Leach collection of recordings, the first line of the third verse erroneously contained the name Billy Allen. On June 6, 2008, the grandson of the individual in the song contacted GEST to advise that name is incorrect and it should be Billy Hanlon. He wrote: "I know that is a mistake since Billy Hanlon was my grandfather and generations of my extended family take pride in this song." - Patrick Hanlon, B.A. Cert. NFLD. Studies