Page 21 - Wilfred Best: "The Merchant's Song"
ISSUE : Issue 44
Published by Ronald Caplan on 1987/1/1
("The Merchant's Song"--is that the right title for it?) Wilfred Best: Well, that's all I ever heard it called. (Not "The New? foundland Merchant's Song"?) Yeah, well, that's where the song was made, in Newfoundland. Mae Best: It wouldn't apply here like it would in Newfoundland. The conditions that the Newfound? landers suffered before they went into Confederation. They had very hard, hard times. And they were controlled by the merchants. (Was this not the case here?) Wilfred: Well, it was, I suppose, yes. Well, probably not as bad as what they had it. Mae: Some? thing like the miners had, too. Wilfred: Pretty much the same thing. No, it wasn't as hard as it was there, because that's what brought them over here. They came over here probably fishing with somebody, and it was a great life here, compared to what they had home, so they came over here and settled. Of course, you never got any mon? ey out of (the merchants). No matter how much money you made, you never got any money. If you wanted money for something, like to pay your taxes or something like that--sometimes they'd pay it for you, or you'd go get it. (When you say no money, could you go a year and not see $25 in cash?) Oh, yes. The old people, they'd feel ashamed to go and ask for it. They didn't think it was right, to go and look for the money that belonged to them. And at those times--like before I was old enough to work--a lot of the people there, they used to keep what they called a "shareman." (A fisherman would) hire somebody to fish with him. Well, (the shareman would) get a quarter of what they'd make. They made $100, he got $25 "The Merchant's Song" Attention all ye fishermen: I'll sing to you a song Now listen, pay attention, it will not take me long It's all about the merchants, they're all around our bay It's how they charge us fishermen, the price we have to pay. If for your Sunday dinner you may want some pork or beef You'll find the merchant got a plan and they won't give no relief And if you ask them for a pound, they look so cold as ice They say, "It can't be opened for we haven't got the price. "Now you come in on Monday and then we'll have the price You better take a pound of tea, likewise a pound of rice The biscuit box, I promise you, I emptied it today The boat called in this morning with tobacco," so they say And now they fix their eyes on you all ready for a grab You pay six cents for luxury and eleven for brown slab A pound of soda biscuit at forty cents a pound They say they're baked in Ottawa and just imported down. And when they get a cask of oil, they don't know what to do They say they're going to lose on it, they're in an awful stew And after robbing all the week, then Sunday then watch out You wouldn't get a needle if you try it in their mouth. It's running to the chapel, likewise unto the church It's right before the railing of the altar they will perch The prayer books that they carry they would weigh a hundred pounds And if you fire a cannon they would not look around And after they come out of church, for half a mile or more They talk about the poor man because he wasn't there Perhaps he couldn't afford it, the courage he couldn't mount He would've been in the churches if they had a fair account. Now soon the day is coming, the day we all will see When men and beast will tremble like leaves upon a tree The dreadful claps of thunder and the mountains rolling down It's only like the butter they stole for forty cents a pound You robbed me of my cullings, my fish in every way How can you look for mercy on this great Judgement Day So now go inth, you are a curse, and I have no more to tell You spent your time full badly--spend eternity in Hell. e' e' out of it. But it didn't cost him a cent. They boarded him. And it didn't cost him any expense for fish. 'Cause the fellow he was fishing with owned all (the gear). This was the way they used to do it. Well, this man, (this shareman,) what money he Tourist Brochures & Colour Printing A Specialty PRINTERS, 180 TOWNSEND STREET, SYDNEY, N. S. TELEPHONE (902) 564'245 St. Peters Drug Store Ltd. Don Stone, Ph. C., Proprietor Open 6 Days a Week Mon. to Fri. open until 8 p.m. Sat. until 5 p.m. 535-2203 St. Peters, N.S. ' EXCELLENT DINING ?> INDOOR OR PATIO D.J. 6 Nights a Week * Live Matinee Every Saturday * No Cover Charge Imported European Drafts 458 CHARLOTTE STREET, DOWNTOWN SYDNEY (21)
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