Person list

Words and tune:

  • Traditional

Locations associated with this song:

Background Info:

Jack Was Every Inch a Sailor is based on ‘Every Inch a Sailor', composed by John Read in the United States during the 1880s; the song was written as a burlesque of the HMS Pinafore. It was published in several songbooks. American pop singer Frank Crumit's 1928 recording of it was a best-seller. In 1929 Elisabeth Greenleaf collected the Newfoundland version printed here from Patrick Lewis of Fleur de Lys, and Gerald S. Doyle reprinted it in the 1940 and subsequent editions of his songsters. Jack's birthplace “twenty-five or thirty miles southeast of Baccalieu” would be in Newfoundland's biggest outport, St. John's.
Dr. Neil V. Rosenberg, Catch Ahold this One...Songs of Newfoundland & Labrador –Volume 1
© Vinland Music. Reproduced with permission


Now 'twas twenty-five or thirty years since Jack first saw the light.
He came into this world of woe one dark and stormy night.
He was born on board his father's ship as she was lying to
'Bout twenty-five or thirty miles southeast of Baccalieu.


Jack was ev'ry inch a sailor, five and twenty years a whaler,
Jack was ev'ry inch a sailor, He was born upon the bright blue sea.

When Jack grew up to be a man, he went to the Labrador.
He fished in Indian Harbour, where his father fished before.
On his returning in the fog, he met a heavy gale,
And Jack was swept into the sea and swallowed by a whale.


The whale went straight for Baffin's Bay, about ninety knots an hour,
And every time he'd blow a spray he'd send it in a shower.
"O, now," says Jack unto himself, "I must see what he's about".
He caught the whale all by the tail and turned him inside out.

from Old-Time Songs and Poetry of Newfoundland, 2nd ed.

See lyrics on a page by themselves