Chorus Song #1 Spring 2022: Wellerman

Rediscovered Wellerman song, which has a ‘cheerful energy’, was likely written by a teenage sailor or shore whaler in New Zealand in the 1830s.

A “Wellerman” was an employee of the Sydney-based Weller Brothers’ shipping company, which from 1833 was the major supplier of provisions – such as the “sugar and tea” of the shanty’s refrain – to whaling stations on New Zealand shores.

The song’s lyrics describe a whaling ship called the Billy o’ Tea and its hunt for a right whale. The song describes how the ship’s crew hope for a “wellerman” to arrive and bring them supplies of luxuries.