Girls of Albany

There’s a bit of a story to this one:-)

A number of years ago (pre-kids), I directed the local Gang Show (a variety show put on by the Scouts and Guides). One year, I was looking for a sea shanty, to ‘mirror’ a country and western song we had in the first act. One of the other members of my team suggested this song, which his brother had on tape. ‘The Girls of Albany’, recorded by Fo’c’sle Firkin. It was perfect—not only was it a sea shanty with a similar feel to the song in the first act, it was ‘local’! We sought and received permission to use it, and taught the four boys to sing it. They did a fabulous job (but sadly my video of that show won’t play, so I can’t actually watch it again:-( ), and I’ve continued to love the song:-)

When I was making my list of folksongs, I obviously wanted to include all the Australian folksongs I knew (Ambleside does include some… but there are many more:-) ) and I thought this would be a good opportunity to make sure I actually share this with the kids.

So at the start of the month I realised I hadn’t actually sorted out a copy of the audio. And that’s not good, because there’s no doubt that the songs they learn best are the ones that they hear at least daily and that I sing with them. I had previously searched online, but hadn’t made it in to the local music library where there was apparently a copy of the tape. I had also found that one of the writers had moved on to a new shanty band The Windjammers and they appeared to be singing the song. Their website at least had an email contact… but sadly, my email bounced, so I wasn’t able to buy a copy. In the end, I recorded it myself (somewhat bodgily! I hadn’t sung it in at least 15 years, and I was a bit iffy on a few bits of the tune!) Now that I’ve been singing it regularly though, I’ve re-recorded it a little more reliably.

Having found a temporary solution, I put out a call on facebook to see if any of the cast members had a working copy of the video. As a bit of a joke, I also asked if anyone had a copy of a Fo’c’sle Firkin tape (it was before CDs were common!) I was astounded when a friend said she thought she did… her father had bought a second hand car, and there was a tape in it, which he had enjoyed and passed on to her thinking she might… and she thought it was one of theirs! Sure enough, it was and she dropped it off to me (because she doesn’t actually have a tape player, and so had never been able to listen to it!). It’s called The Port of Albany, it contains 5 songs, the last of which is The Girls of Albany!

So, here are the words, and my recording of the song. As I said, it’s not great, but it should be enough to get a feel for the song. When we eventually find the right cable, I will make a digital copy of the recording I have (which I will happily remove if anyone can point me to somewhere I can direct people to get it legitimately!). I think it’s too important a song to have disappear! Whaling was such an essential ‘local’ industry.

The Girls of Albany (by Fred Carter and Alan Ralph, performed by Fo’c’sle Firkin, and later I believe, by The Windjammers)

There’s no waiting at the dockside
No time to say goodbye.
Just a tearful kiss in the darkness
And he goes and he gives a sigh.
He’s gone to join his shipmates
To find the big sperm whales
And spend his day endangering
The Southern Ocean whales.

Farewell to the girls of Albany
We’re leaving you again.
But we’ll be back at nightfall
Come wind or hail or rain.
The ocean’s always calling
The whale men calling me
I’ll be on again before the dawn
To search for the whales at sea
Bound out from Albany.

You married in November
He disappeared each day
He was out harpooning sperm whales
When the first child came in May.
Home was just a bed at night
A meal and a change of gear
But all for whaling and the ocean men
That he was rarely there.

Farewell to the girls of Albany
We’re leaving you again.
But we’ll be back at nightfall
Come wind or hail or rain.
The ocean’s always calling
The whale men calling me
I’ll be on again before the dawn
To search for the whales at sea
Bound out from Albany.

But they don’t all return to the station
For the whale is a fearsome foe
And the children have no father now
And you’re a new widow.
A service in the churchyard
The crew will drink an ale
He’ll go no more a-sailing on
To find the southern whale.

Farewell to the girls of Albany
We’re leaving you again.
But we’ll be back at nightfall
Come wind or hail or rain.
The ocean’s always calling
The whale men calling me
I’ll be on again before the dawn
To search for the whales at sea
Bound out from Albany.

The house is often empty now
The children all are gone
The search in vain for a whaling ship
To sail into the sound
But the whaling ships have all returned
They’re rusted on the shore
The whaling now has ended and
They go to sea no more.

Farewell to the girls of Albany
We’re leaving you again.
But we’ll be back at nightfall
Come wind or hail or rain.
The ocean’s always calling
The whale men calling me
I’ll be on again before the dawn
To search for the whales at sea
Bound out from Albany.

The Girls of Albany

(I keep saying ‘local’. The song is about Albany, a port on the southern coast of my state. About a four hour drive away… but given how few of the folk songs are Australian… I’m claiming all Western Australian ones as local:-) Later, we’ll be doing The Catalpa, which is much more local:-) )

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4 Comments

Filed under Folksongs, Home Education, Music

4 responses to “Girls of Albany

  1. dipi

    What a great story Fe!

  2. Peter Murphy

    Hi, Sorry I’m not sure of your name.
    Mine is Peter ‘Murf’ Murphy from Fo’c’sle Firkins. My wife stumbled onto your page just today (12/01/2013) and I wondered if you still had the same problem. I have a version of the cassette (which is called “From the Port of Albany” and has actually 16 tracks) A friend of mine has transferred this to CD and if you are interested I could see how a copy of this turns out. Alternatively when he returns from overseas in a week or two, he may have a spare.
    I have this cassette on i tunes, and could look at sending you a digital copy of the specific track, if that is your main requirement. However this would rely on my limited skills as a computer tech!!!

    Just as side trivia, the ORIGINAL 10 man shanty team which started Fo’c’sle Firkins performed, just last evening(11/01) for the first time in about 25 years (28 years since formation). This was a sell-out Charity Concert for PMH Cancer Research and we raised over $4500.

    Best Regards Murf

    • Wow! The wonders of the internet!

      I would _love_ to get a copy of the whole lot if that were possible! That would be great:-)

      (Incidentally, we never had a copy of the words, we transcribed it from the recording. Most of it is pretty reliable, but I’m not convinced about the second last line of the second verse. Does it look right to you?)

  3. Peter Murphy

    By the way that was $4500, NOT $45.oo See 2nd paragraph of above re computer skills 🙂
    Murf

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