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North Sea Holes

[Ewan MacColl]

North Sea Holes was written for the third of the eight BBC radio ballads by Ewan MacColl, Charles Parker and Peggy Seeger, Singing the Fishing (first broadcast on August 16, 1960, released on an Argo LP in 1966 and now available on a Topic CD). It celebrates the herring fishermen of the steam-drifter era.

Ewan MacColl and chorus sang North Sea Holes in 1971 on The Critics Group's Argo album As We Were A-Sailing.

Danny Spooner and Gordon McIntyre sang North Sea Holes on the 1968 album Soldiers and Sailors (Folksingers of Australia Volume 2). They noted:

This song, written by Ewan MacColl, forms part of the narration in the musical documentary Singing the Fishing, one of the radio ballads produced by MacColl and Charles Parker for the B.B.C. The song describes the work of the herring fishermen who live along the east coast of England and Scotland.

Bob Fox and Stu Luckley sang North Sea Holes on their 1997 Fellside album Box of Gold.

Lori Watson sang North Sea Holes in 2016 on Boreas' CD Ahoy Hoy. This track was also issued as a download single.

Trasnú sang North Sea Fishermen in 2016 on their CD Trasnú & the Adventures of Wing Commander Pancake.

Kim Lowings & the Greenwood sang North Sea Holes on their 2018 CD Wild & Wicked Youth Cover Sessions.

Lyrics

Ewan MacColl's North Sea Holes

Come all you gallant fishermen
That plough the stormy sea
The whole year round
On the fishing grounds
    Of the Northern Minch and the Norway Deeps,
    On the banks and knolls of the North Sea holes,
    Where the herring shoals are found.

It’s there you’ll find the Norfolk boys
And lads from Peterhead,
There’s Buckie chiels and men from Shields
    On the Northern Minch and the Norway Deeps,
    On the banks and knolls of the North Sea Holes,
    Where the herring shoals are found.

From Fraserburgh and Aberdeen,
From Whitby, Yarmouth Town,
The fleet’s away at the break of day
    To the Northern Minch and the Norway Deeps,
    To the banks and knolls of the North Sea Holes,
    Where the herring shoals are found.

It's off with a boiler full of steam and your engine spic and span
To fish the grounds the North Sea round.
    And fish and knolls and the North Sea Holes,
    Try your luck at the North Shields Gut,
    Wi a catch of a hundred cran.

No need to wait for the wind and tide, you're the master of the sea,
Come calm or squall, just shoot and haul,
    And fill the hold with the fish to be sold,
    And steam ahead for the curing shed.
    And the buyers on the Yarmouth quay.