NORWAY YAWL - Bob McNeill (recorded on "Ben the Hoose")

There were men that my father knew
Worked oars as well as a plough
Strong men who came home like the waves on the shore
But these old men are all gone now

The Norway yawls lie tattered and broken
On the earth where these old men now lie
They have earned their sleep but I would keep hold
Of the life that with them has died

And there are no men left in Derry
None in Donegal
There are no men left on Islay
Build me a Norway yawl

They fished the grounds off Ardara
Took the herring from off Tory Isle
But the old men have all gone now
And we can't believe our time


We have not the life of the fisherman
And our hardships are nothing besides
Our hands are not battered and frozen
Upon oars opposing the tide


Ran the yawls from St John's to Port Ellen
Rathlin, Port Stewart and Glengad
Tory and Derry and Moville between
The lines that are part of our past

Chorus (X2)

In the case of the Norway yawl, these boats were entirely open and double-ended, that is sharp at both stem and stern. Dimensions for this type varied slightly, but they usually had a keel length of 18-20 feet with a beam of 5.5-6 feet. (McCaughan, 1982, 178) The yawls were primarily used for line fishing and rowed with four oars but often set a lug or sprit sail. (Joe McClean, oral evidence) Norway yawls were regarded as safe, service-able boats and could be easily hauled out of the water by two men. (Malcolm Collins, oral evidence) As the name suggests these boats were imported direct from Norway but were modified in Ireland by the addition of one or two 'strakes'. (McCaughan, 1982, 176) Commentators have suggested that by the 1840's these boats were in some areas coming to the end of their working lives. The explanation was believed to lie in the decline of the timber trade with Norway brought on by raising duties on Baltic timber. (Davis, 1979, 46) This effected the shipment of Norway yawls as they were brought in with the timber cargoes.