The following article originally appeared as part of a series titled "Down Home" in the Newfoundland Signal (published in Toronto) on December 17, 1976. In those days the author spent her summers on Red Island with her husband Denis and their daughter Krista. Reprinted by permission.

A Drink, a Song, Then a Dance ...

by Lorna M. Ryan

RED ISLAND, Placentia Bay -- We were down at Johnny's last night.

Maggie was just putting the youngsters to bed, and a few of the boys were in having a drink. Somebody had just gotten paid and there was a half-empty bottle of Silk Tassel on the table, and another one of rum over on the cupboard.

Walter Best was there. Some hand to sing, Walter is; knows all the old songs and most of the new. And once you get him started, he'll go on and on all night.

But you don't ask him straight off, of course. You talk about fishing first - how much everyone is getting, and what kind of gear they've got out. So-and-so has his boat up for sale, and you discuss the merits of that; how old it is, and whether it's worth the price he's asking for it.

Finally someone says, "Sing us 'The Green Rock', Walter."

"Oh, b'ye," says Walter, "I don't know that one no more."

"G'way b'ye," Johnny says, pouring himself another drink, "You knows that as good as you know your own name."

"No, I can't sing," Walter says, taking another pull at his Blue Star.

This is all part of the ritual, of course. You keep after him, and bye and bye out comes "Oh, the Green Rock sailed for Grand Bank, up in Fortune Bay ..." and the "time" is under way.

Hands are joined all around, and a rough circle is formed, everyone swaying with the rhythm of the song, and a couple of fellows stomping their rubbers on the floor to keep time. In the pause between each verse, encouragement is offered: "Good b'ye, Walter!" " Heave it outta ya!"

Walter finishes the song, flushed and smiling, and Johnny refills his glass for him. Dave coaxes a little tune out of the accordian and does a heel-and-toe step in the middle of the floor.

"..... he took my moonshine can. WHOOOOOSH!"

"Rise on 'er, b'ye!"

"..... Seven dollars for large, and six-fifty for small, and when it's all over, you've nothing at all. And it's hard, hard times ..."

Everyone joins in on a chorus here, a verse there. The bottles pass from hand to hand. Johnny, grinning from ear to ear, shouts "By God, b'ye, the best life in the world is right here in Newfoundland!"

"..... since the pirate is gone, come aft in my cabin ...."

"..... Your copper will turn into silver and your silver will grow into gold. And that you will find very useful, to help you my boy when you're old ....."

The rum is well down in the bottle now, and Maggie's partridge soup is beginning to smell pretty good.

Anthony McCarthy sings his favourite song: "..... She said she couldn't dance, because she had her bloomers on. But when she took 'em off, she could dance as well as anyone ...." The men laugh and stomp their feet in approval.

"..... Oh, Sally told me not to ..... Hahahahahaha!"

"Jeez, b'ye, I got no breat' left!" Walter gasps. He braces himself with one hand on his knee and carefully steadies the neck of the bottle over his glass.

"Lets sing 'Star of Logy Bay', b'yes ....."