I love the photo on dad’s seaman’s ID card. I wonder how old he was. Evan and Lyn, you have done an amazing job with dads music. I can’t wait to see the site developed.
Peace and Art. Morag
I have a copy of this CD from a friend and wish to own an original copy. It is such an amazingly humanistic view of a way of life that is discarded or scorned by people nowadays even though it is not a glorification of whaling but a _real_ folk masterpiece.
Thank you for bringing this to us.
I am the son of Harry’s youngest sister, Patricia Robertson, now Patricia Murphy. My mum has often spoken of Harry’s musical prowess, and she has an L.P. of ‘Whale Chasing Men’. She was thrilled to read on Wikipedia of Harry’s life, and has listened to the modern covers of his songs. It gives us great pride to see that his work is still being recognised today.
John Murphy, Paisley, Scotland
Hi there – I am releasing a Marian Henderson compilation in 2010 (on the aztec music offshoot label Vibraphonic). I would like to speak to someone about licensing the two tracks from Whaling Songs that feature Marian.
The whaling songs of Harry Robertson have been in my head ever since I first them in the mid-70’s. Such an honest voice and such good humour. And the voice of Marion Henderson – wow. A friend of mine, Michael Meadows (now at Griffith University), interviewed Harry in the early 90’s. for the ABC. I would like to see that tape sometime. Another friend, Ian White, played with Harry in the early mid- 80’s and spoke respectfully of his experiences. I’d hate to estimate how many miles I have kept awake at the wheel by singing Harry’s songs.
Ian, Melbourne, Victoria
Thanks for sharing Harry’s wonderful songs. I was really pleased to find his original lyrics and recording of Wee Pot Stove. The ‘tradition’ naturally reshapes songs and it is so easy to lose contact with the real meaning of the verses. I look forward to reading a biography and any photos you may have.
Graham Moore, Dorset, England
Hi my name is harry robertson and this website was created on my dads birthday!
Well, what a coincidence :-). I hope you enjoy the site.
He’s a little younger in the photo than I remember him, but just as imposing. Can’t wait to see the site up again. Harry was an inspired songwriter.
Hello Andrew. Just letting you know that Harry’s “PEOPLE” is now up on the website for you. Looking forward to your performance with us all (Phyl Lobl, Alex and Annette Hood, Garry Tooth, David Lumsden, Martin Evely, Chris “Shiny Bum” Clarke, Margaret and Bob Fagan) in our special feature Concert “Penguin Eggs…In The Wee Dark Engine Room” celebrating Harry at the 2012 National Folk Festival in Canberra this Easter. Much love and peace. Evan and Lyn.
Wow! Thankyou for sharing and preserving this piece of folk history and keeping the tradition of the songs and stories alive! All the best! Julie Minto
Thank you Julie!
We would also like to thank you for your ongoing hard work in supporting and promoting all Folk music through the wonderful team at FOLK REDLANDS at the glorious Indigiscapes venue.
All the very best with your new CD “Mama Juju”.
Evan and Lyn
Would love to see a re-issue of his songs in some digital media form. I still have his 1971 LP.
Greetings from down under.
In 2001 we actually organised a digital CD of Harry’s 1971 WHALE CHASING MEN LP. The CD production was done by the National Film and Sound Archive (ScreenSound Australia) in Canberra, and we prepared a 24 page insert booklet with the songs words, Harry’s descriptive text about each song, and photos from the Robertson family collection. The highly talented staff at ScreenSound did a marvellous job with the original sound recording. The CD was launched at a great Concert at the National Folk Festival in Canberra that same year attended by many of Harry’s mates and his widow Rita was the very special Guest of Honour.
Sadly all of these CD’s have now sold out, but we are planning to do another Re-issue with an updated insert booklet in 2013. We’ll let you know when it is available.
As you probably know Harry only ever made one LP but if you are interested in his other fine songs, Evan has made two CD’s of a number of them in the same oral tradition as he learned them directly from Harry from way back in the 1960’s.
Evan’s 2 CD’s are:-
HARRY’S LEGACY (2007)
TRIBUTE TO HARRY ROBERTSON 1923-1995 (2009)
They are both available from
Thanks for your interest.
All the best from the Robertson family
and Evan and myself
My men’s chorus, The Shifty Sailors, sings of all things maritime from hymns to shanteys, ballads to ditties. We have enjoyed some of HR’s works and performed Norfolk Whalers. I particularly enjoyed the song Wee Pot Stove. Every line advances the feelings of icy coldness and isolation and the warmth to be received from the “campfire” and the people around it. Bob Wagner. Shifty Sailors.net
I had a Harry Robetson albam many years ago, which was lost in going over to CDs, so good to hear those songs again, oral tradition wonderfull stuff.
Well my word what a great artist a piece of history
I had his album which I found in a second hand shop
Loved it sadly it was lost due to a shift in my life
So nice to be able to hear these songs again
I sailed on the Atlas in 1965 we left Brombora ?? in the Mersey and only got as far as Wallasey where we stopped for repairs we were on our way to Whyalla Australia and I said to myself there is no way this thing is going to make it to Aussie anyway we did make it but what a trip we were towed out of the bay of Biscay by a Swedish tug (Hermes) stationed at Lisbon where we spent 14 days having major repairs done including removing the tumblers from above the wheelhouse and welding them down aft I was offered a job on her when we reached Aussie but I could not get off her quick enough I know about the Sinking of Atlas on her way to NZ in fact I read a bit about the inquiry and can not understand why nobody from the trip out was at the inquiry it smells like a cover up to me that’s it for now you have my E Mail Add take care Joe Kelly AB
Joe, I would love to talk to you! My dad Gordon Fairbairn was also on the Atlas, I’m trying to find out all I can about the event and how it affected the survivors in particular. Could you please contact me?
My father was a whaler from Eyemouth, Berwickshire, Scotland. When he was released from the Navy in 1948 he helped Salvesen kit out a whaling vessel and they set sail for South Georgia to trial it. He later sailed on The Southern Briar (whale catcher) and The Southern Harvester. He was a Radio Officer. 1926-2000. I have co-written a play about Scottish whalers entitled “A Cinema in South Georgia”. I have a facebook page of the same name which I use to update friend on my progress. Would love to hear more about Harry.
Greetings again from “Down Under”! Thanks for the information about your father’s time as a Radio Officer aboard the whale chaser “Southern Briar” and the factory ship “Southern Harvester” in South Georgia.
There are many parallels with Harry Robertson’s whaling story – after Harry was released in 1947 from his wartime active service in the North Sea as Engineer on RNVR Rescue Tugs, Harry the signed on as Engineer with the Shell Tanker Fleet and travelled the world. In early 1949 Harry joined Salvesens and oversaw the fitting-out of the engines in whale chasers at Smith’s Dock in Middlesborough. Harry’s Log Book shows that later that same year he signed on to their whale chaser “Southern Rover” and factory ship “Southern Venturer”. Photos Harry took on his voyage to South Georgia also show other vessels in the whaling fleet and the names of two are clearly visible “Southern Rider” and “Southern Lotus”. Harry’s suite of whaling songs describe the voyage and also the time he spent “wintering-over” with a skeleton crew at Leith Harbour doing maintenance work to get the chasers ready for the next whaling season – as recounted in his well-loved world-renowned song “WEE POT STOVE”.
Harry (1923-1995) was of much the same generation as your father and it looks as though their time with the whaling fleet overlapped. What a lovely thought it is to imagine they may well have actually met!
Thanks so much for sharing all your good news about your writing and performance project “A CINEMA IN SOUTH GEORGIA” about Scottish whaling men. We are thrilled that you have chosen to use a selection of Harry’s story of the whales and the whaling in the performances. Congratulations on having the bookings in place for your Premiere on 27 March 2015 at Coldingham Village Hall, and then travelling on to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August.
Thanks again, we’d love to hear more about your father’s South Georgia experiences and progress with your play!
All the very best on behalf of Harry’s widow Rita Robertson and her family,
Listened to Evan Mathiesons recordings of Harrys songs, on a night time drive home from the Nariel Creek Folk Festival to Beechworth. The van was awash with nautical tales and the smell of a wee pot stove. Excellent interpretations!
So glad you enjoyed Evan’s “Harry’s Legacy” and “Tribute To Harry Robertson 1923-1995″ CD’s! What a great way to round off a marvellous 52nd Nariel Creek Folk Festival by playing them as you drove home to Beechworth — we hope they proved to be an effective antidote to Ian Simpson’s cooking!!!
Evan’s interpretations were based on having learned the songs directly from Harry Robertson himself, often as they were just freshly written and performed in Harry’s style of telling the story around them to set the scene for each song. Harry only over did one commercial recording, his 1971 LP “Whale Chasing Men – Songs of Whaling in Ice and Sun”. Many of this other great songs were not as well known as they deserved to be so after organising the ScreenSound Australia/National Film and Sound Archive re-issue of WCM in CD format in 2001, Evan and I embarked on our project to record CD’s of Harry’s other songs at the request of his widow (our very dear friend) Rita Robertson who was truly delighted by the end result.
Until we meet up with you again, we’d like to say a big “Thank You” to yourself and Billy for being such indefatigable and loquacious “Perpetual Paper Providores” to the famous/infamous? Nariel Long-Drops.
All the very best for 2015, hope to see you both at Acoustic Transmission at the 49th National Folk Festival in Canberra this Easter.
I’ve learned only recently that my dad, Gordon Charles Fairbairn, was with Harry Robertson on the W.D.Atlas. I only wished that I had known this earlier and could have spoken to Harry about this terrible event. I think it scarred my dad badly. He died very young – didn’t make it to 40. Are there any other people out there that were involved in this? I’d be grateful of any information anyone can provide me to help me learn more of it. I was only 5 when it happened – all I remember was that the newspaper (The Telegraph) came and photographed us and wrote a story. Please contact me if you can shed any light!
I have a weekly program called Celtic! Old World to New Age on our small non-commercial community radio station on Hatteras Island, North Carolina. I found Harry’s page while I was investigating one of his songs played by Eric Bogle. May I have permission to play 2 or 3 of his songs on my program? And will you please let me know when there is another re-issue of his “Whale Chasing Men”. It’s wonderful, and I love Alex Reed and Marian Henderson’s voices, as well. Thanks.
Lovely to hear from you. Thanks for your interest in the songs of our late friend Harry Robertson – so glad you enjoyed them, and yes we would be happy for you to play any/all of them on your community radio station. You may even like to use Harry’s own introductions to the individual songs when they go to air.
We’re currently gathering photos etc together for a comprehensive 24 page booklet to go with our proposed re-issue of “Whale Chasing Men” so there will be updates on http://www.harryrobertson.net as things progress, hopefully late 2015.
I’ll pass your kind comments on to ALEX HOOD and MARION HENDERSON. ALEX and his wife ANNETTE HOOD have been booked to perform at our 49th Australian National Folk Festival in Canberra this Easter, so we will see them there.
If you are interested in Harry’s fine songs about subjects other than whaling, we have recorded 2 CD’s ‘HARRY’S LEGACY” and ‘TRIBUTE TO HARRY ROBERTSON” which are both available from our independent Australian music site http://www.tradandnow.com Each CD has a 24 page insert booklet with song words, photos, and background info.
All the best with your radio program. Community radio is so very important in getting REAL music out there on the airwaves – as an antidote to crass commercialisation!
Thank you so much, Lyn. I was hopeful and have already selected the music for the hour. Because we are streaming online now, and not just broadcasting on Hatteras Island, I have to follow internet rules which limit the number of pieces by one artist or on a single album (otherwise, I’d love to play more of Harry’s work!). Our local village bookstore just offered a “community read” of Nathaniel Philbrick’s book, IN THE HEART OF THE SEA: THE TRAGEDY OF THE WHALESHIP ESSEX. The readers sent questions in, and Mr. Philbrick was interviewed this afternoon for a broadcast later this month. So, I thought I could tie the subject of the reading program in with one of my weekly programs on Celtic! Old World to New Age. I’m calling the program “Whaling & Sailing” and I have music covering whaling, salvage, and survival written by or performed by artists including Harry, Eric Bogle, Stan Rogers, Bob Zentz, and Michael O’Dohmnaill. It will air on Thursday, March 26 at 8PM our time, which should be somewhere around lunchtime for you on Friday…….we are getting ready to begin our daylight savings time, so I’ll check the time again closer to the date. You will be able to stream it at http://www.radiohatteras.org if you care to listen. Thank you again! Liz
The program featuring Harry Robertson’s music will air on Queensland time at 10AM on Friday (8PM on Thursday, US Eastern Daylight Savings Time). It is on Celtic! Old World to New Age “Songs of Whaling, Sailing, and Sea-going Survival” and will stream online at http://www.radiohatteras.org. Thank you so much! Liz
The date…….it is this week, and will be on your Friday, March 27
My radio program, Celtic! Old World to New Age, featuring Harry Robertson’s music will be aired Friday, April 24 at 10 a.m. Queensland time (8 p.m. Thursday, Hatteras Island time) streaming on http://www.radiohatteras.org. It did not stream the first time, although the local broadcast was fine. We decided to air it again for the Australians who might want to hear it. Thank you s much for sharing the great music. Liz Browning Fox
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