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Little Fishes

[ Roud 5477 ; Ballad Index MA119 ; trad.]

Chris Coe learned Little Fishes from the Bristol shantyman Eric Ilott and sang it in 1978 on Bandogg's eponymous LP Bandoggs.

Danny Spooner sang Little Fish on his 2002 CD Launch Out on the Deep. He noted:

I first heard this sung by Spencer Tracy in the film Captains Courageous and I have sung it to the children of many of my friends over the years, some of whom now sing it to their own children. Like many itinerant songs of the sea this beautiful lullaby, collected in Australia by John Meredith, also appears in Britain and America.

The Revels sang Yea Ho, Little Fish in 2002 on their CD Homeward Bound.

Barbara Brown sang Little Fishes in 2008 on Tom and Barbara Brown's WildGoose CD Beyond the Quay. They commented in their liner notes:

And while on the subject of Little Fishes, here’s a lonesome fisherman doodling away on his concertina and dreaming of other things. It's one of the songs that we can actually trace the route it took to get to us! From Spencer Tracey (in Captains Courageous), to Eric Ilott, the Bristol shantyman, to Chris Coe (in the Bandoggs piscatorial trilogy) and thence to Barbara.

Lyrics

Chris Coe sings Little Fishes Barbara Brown sings Little Fishes

Oh the crew are asleep and the ocean's at rest
And I'm singing this song to the one I love best

There's a song in my heart for the one I love best
And her picture is tattooed all over my breast

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Hey ho little fishes don't cry don't cry
Hey ho little fishes don't cry don't cry

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Yea ho little fishes don't cry don't cry
Yea ho little fishes don't cry don't cry

The ship's underway and the weather is fine
And the skipper's down aft hanging out extra lines

Now the ship's underway and the weather is fine
And the skipper is aft hanging out the new lines

Little fish when he's caught he fights like a bull whale
That thrashes the water with his mighty tail

Little fish when he's caught he fights like a bull whale
As he thrashes the water with his mighty tail

They are fishing the sea, there is no doubt about it
Just as fine as the one that ever came out of it

Oh the crew are asleep and the ocean's at rest
And I'm singing this song to the one I love best

Now the crew is asleep and the ocean's at rest
And I'm singing this song for the one I love best

Danny Spooner sings Little Fish

There's a song in my heart for the one I love best
And her picture is tattooed all over my chest

Chorus (after each verse):
Yo ho little fishy don't cry don't cry
Yo ho little fishy don't cry don't cry

Little fish when he's caught he fights like a bull whale
And he thrashes the water with his long narrow tail

There are fish in the sea there ain't no doubt about it
As good as the ones that ever came out of it

Now the crew are asleep and the ocean's at rest
And I'm singing this song for the one I love best

Acknowledgements and Links

Chris Coe's and Danny Spooner's lyrics were transcribed by Garry Gillard.

See also the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Add: Yea Ho, Little Fish.