I’s the B’y – A Song from Newfoundland, Canada

Here’s a catchy new song I just learned called I’s the B’y, meaning I’m the Boy. I found two cool YouTube videos so you could hear it. The lyrics are below with some notes about their meanings…

I’s the B’y

I’s the b’y that builds the boat
And I’s the b’y that sails her,
I’s the b’y that catches the fish,
And brings them home to Liza.

Hip yer partner*, Sally Tibbo,
Hip yer partner, Sally Brown,
Fogo, Twillingate, Moreton’s Harbour,**
All around the circle!

Sods and rinds to cover your flake,***
Cake**** and tea for supper,
Codfish in the spring o’ the year
Fried in maggoty butter.


I don’t want your maggoty fish,
That’s no good for winter,
I could buy as good as that,
Down in Bonavista.


I took Liza to a dance,
As fast as she could travel,
And every step that she did take
Was up to her knees in gravel.


Susan White, she’s out of sight,
Her petticoat wants a border,
Old Sam Oliver in the dark,
He kissed her in the corner.


I’s the b’y that builds the boat
And I’s the b’y that sails her,
I’s the b’y that catches the fish,
And brings them home to Liza.

*”Hip yer partner” means to bump your hip into your partner’s hip when dancing.
**These are all locations in Newfoundland (see map below).
***Sod was used to cover the holes and roofs of huts that were made to smoke fish.
Rinds are bark – they were used to cover the fish on the flakes to keep the fish from getting burnt in the hot sun.
A flake is a stand made of wooden poles used for drying out fish.
****Cake here refers to a hard, dry biscuit eaten on ships.

Map of Newfoundland showing Fogo, Twillingate and Moreton's Harbour

This article was posted on Sunday, November 9th, 2008 at 12:22 pm and is filed under Canada, Canadian Children's Songs, Canadian Folk Songs, Children's Songs, Countries & Cultures, English, Folk Songs, I's the B'y, Languages, Mama Lisa, YouTube. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

3 Responses to “I’s the B’y – A Song from Newfoundland, Canada”

  1. Anna Says:

    Do you know of an old English song which contains the words “Wallflower wallflower” and “we are little children and we shall not be ……”. Sorry to be so vague but I just can’t remember!!

  2. Lisa Says:

    Here’s what Ford Elms wrote to me about “sods” in this song:

    The sods weren’t used in fish smoking. I’m a Newfoundlander, which means I will grab any chance to go on and on about my culture:-), and that song has become something of a cliche, actually. And that’s too bad, it’s a nice song, but it’s been played to death! Anyway, smoking fish was not all that common in Newfoundland. The vast majority of fish, especially if sold on the international market, we salted. As far as I’m aware, fish was only smoked for personal use, and not by very many people then. As you say, the fish was dried on flakes after it had been salted. The process took several days, and our weather is very changeable. So, in the night time or when it rained, the fish was piled up in piles called “faggots” (or, as we’d say, “faggotted up”), then bark laid on the top and sides, and the bark weighted down with sods so as not to blow away. Hence “sods and rinds to cover your flake”.

    I’m from the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland, and in the days before motorized fishing boats, people rowed everywhere. In the Spring of the year, my grandfather and three others would leave Griquet, their hometown, in a four man boat called a ‘bully’. Sometimes they could put a rough sail on her, but there would always be a certain amount of rowing, more often than not, it would be all rowing. They would row for seven hours (I kid you not, I can’t imagine it) to Sacred Bay, not a religious thing, that was just the name of it, to cut rinds. They’d cut till they had a boat full, sleep under the upturned boat, then row back the next day. Then, they’d have to get the sods.

    Thanks for writing Ford! -Mama Lisa

  3. Judith DeGraaff Says:

    So glad you shared this information! It was so helpful in explaining the song to the students for understanding what they are singing.

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