#02542
The Herring (Genevieve Lehr and Anita Best)
See also: Herring's Head (Eliza Carthy)

The Red Herring
#741: YouTube video by threelegsoman
©2009 ~ Used with permission ~

O, what will we do with the old herrings' heads?
We'll get some loaves and sell them for bread;
O, herrings' heads and loaves of bread,
And all things like that.

And of all the fish that's in the sea -
The herring - that's the fish for me.
Right tiddy she loo-ra,
Right she loo-ra fol-a fold dee.

O, what will we do with the old herrings' eyes?
We'll get some puddings and sell them for pies;
O, herrings' eyes, puddings for pies,
Herrings' heads and loaves for bread,
And all things like that.

And of all the fish that's in the sea -
The herring - that's the fish for me.
Right tiddy she loo-ra,
Right she loo-ra fol-a fold dee.

O, what will we do with the old herrings' fins?
We'll get some needles and sell them for pins;
Herrings' fins and needles for pins;
Herrings' eyes, pudding and pies,
Herrings heads and loaves for bread,
And all things like that.

And of all the fish that's in the sea -
The herring - that's the fish for me.
Right tiddy she loo-ra,
Right she loo-ra fol-a fold dee.

O, what will we do with the old herrings' backs?
We'll get a little boy and call him Jack;
O, herrings' backs, boys called Jack,
Herrings' fins and needels for pins,
Herrings' eyes, puddings and pies,
Herrings' heads and loaves for bread,
And all things like that.

And of all the fish that's in the sea -
The herring - that's the fish for me.
Right tiddy she loo-ra,
Right she loo-ra fol-a fold dee.

O, what will we do with the old herring's bellies?
We'll get a little girl and call her Nellie;
O, herrings' bellies and girls called Nellie,
Herrings' backs , boys called Jack,
Herrings' fins and needles for pins,
Herrings' eyes, puddings and pies,
Herrings' heads and loaves for bread,
And all things like that.

And of all the fish that's in the sea -
The herring - that's the fish for me.
Right tiddy she loo-ra,
Right she loo-ra fol-a fold dee.

O, what will we do with the old herrings' scales?
We'll get some canvas and sew it for sails;
O, herrings' scales canvas for sails,
Herrings' bellies and girls called Nellie,
Herrings' backs, boys called Jack,
Herrings' fins and needles for pins,
Herrings' eyes, puddings and pies,
Herrings' heads and loaves for bread,
And all things like that.

And of all the fish that's in the sea -
The herring - that's the fish for me.
Right tiddy she loo-ra,
Right she loo-ra fol-a fold dee.

####.... Author unknown. Variant of The Red Herring, a traditional song of the sea ....####
This variant was collected by Genevieve Lehr and Anita Best in 1977 from Ernest J Barter [1918-1983] of Ramea, NL, and published as #50 in Come And I Will Sing You: A Newfoundland Songbook, pp.87-88, edited by Genevieve Lehr (University of Toronto Press, 1985/2003).

The video above features a 12-string guitar performance of a variant by Tony Archibald from Port St Mary on the Isle of Man.


Genevieve Lehr noted that The Herring song comes from a late eighteenth-century broadsheet, The Fishes' Lamentation, subtitled A New Song. It seems the song originally contained allusions to the idea that the herring, being the king of the fish, was the embodiment of some ancient regeneration ritual. However, the song has since been modified somewhat and, according to Mr Barter, his version was very often sung to children. Lehr also noted that Uncle Mose knew the song as the Jolly Jack Herring:

O, what do you think of me jolly jack herring,
He's forty feet wide and he's fifty feet long -
To me E so and I so and E cock a lair E-o,
Why didn't you told me so?
So I did long ago.
Very well, then, don't you think I done well
With me jolly jack herring?


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