Oh, this is the place where the fishermen gather
With oil-skins and boots and
Cape Anns battened down
All sizes of figures
with squid lines and jiggers
They congregate here on the squid-jiggin’ ground
One of this province’s most well-known and loved songs will be inducted into Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in Toronto this evening.
It might not be long before the tune becomes known and loved in Australia and the rest of the world as well, thanks to children’s entertainers The Wiggles.
“Squid Jiggin’ Ground,” written by Change Islands native Art Scammell in 1928, when he was just 15 years old, will be inducted into the hall of fame during a gala ceremony to be held at the Toronto Centre for the Arts this evening. Local musicians and Figgy Duff alumni Pamela Morgan, Anita Best, Frank Maher and Kelly Russell will perform the tune.
“I think it’s a very fitting song to be in the hall of fame. It’s a song that has lasted the test of time,” Russell said.
The song remained relatively obscure until it was published by Gerald S. Doyle — businessman and promoter of Newfoundland’s cultural heritage — in his “Old-Time Songs and Poetry of Newfoundland” and distributed around the province about 1940.
Although more than 80 years old and written when life on the water was different than it is now, the song remains relevant in terms of our culture, Russell explained.
“‘Squid Jiggin’ Ground’ is reflective of a past that may not be functional in today’s world, but it’s something that we cling to and we look back on as representation of who were are as a people and a culture,” he said.
The images portrayed in the song are what drew Anthony Field, one of the founding members of Australian children’s musical supergroup The Wiggles, to it.
With a career that’s lasted 20 years, The Wiggles — Field, Murray Cook, Jeff Fatt and newest member, Sam Moran — are arguably the most popular children’s entertainers of all time, having sold more than 17 million DVDs and four million CDs worldwide, and with a television series that’s seen in countries around the world.
Field told The Telegram in a phone interview from Australia, where the group is currently on tour, that he first heard Canadian country legend Hank Snow’s version of “Squid Jiggin’ Ground,” and loved it immediately.
“I loved the Hank Snow version and the great thing about the Internet now is that I was able to listen to a lot of versions of it. I was just totally taken by the language of it all and the story that it tells — every verse has a story,” Field explained. “I love how it talks about them getting squid juice in the eye, and says, ‘But they don’t give a damn on the squid jiggin’ ground.’ I thought, gee, that’s such a great picture. This fellow was really passionate about his squid jigging, I think. It’s brilliant, absolutely brilliant.”
With a career that’s lasted 20 years, The Wiggles are arguably the most popular children’s entertainers of all time, having sold more than 17 million DVDs and four million CDs worldwide, and with a television series that’s seen in countries around the world. -
The song was released on The Wiggles’ 2010 CD and DVD “Let’s Eat,” featuring former Irish Riverdance vocalist Tom McGlynn and Wiggles’ sidekick, the friendly pirate Captain Feathersword (Paul Paddick). It’s wasn’t hard to convince the other Wiggles to include the song on the disc.
“They’re really like-minded,” said Field, who’s long been producing The Wiggles’ music.
“When there’s a really great folk song that really paints a picture and gives children and families that listen to it a view of somewhere else in the world, of a different culture, well, it’s sort of obvious that we’ll do it.”
Field said he had some help translating some of the words in the song by The Wiggles’ massage therapist Rodney Squires, a Newfoundlander, but admits he’s still not quite sure what some of the lyrics mean.
“I asked him a few things about what everything was, like the sou’wester — I know that’s a hat — but what’s hard tack? And what does it mean when it says, ‘A red-rantin’ Tory out here in the dory?’” Field asked with a laugh.
“The song uses this incredible language, and paints a picture of a place where it seems very cold and hard and wild. You just feel like you’re out there on the squid jigging ground.”
Field said his own three young children love the song, and so do other children around Australia — during a recent visit to a primary school in Queensland, the young students prepared a concert for The Wiggles members and chose “Squid Jiggin’ Ground” to perform.
The Wiggles have never been to Newfoundland — the closest they came was last November, when their Canadian tour took them as far as Charlottetown, P.E.I. — but Field says he plans to make a point of including the province on the next North American tour.
While he’s never jigged squid, Field said he owns a “tinnie” — the Australian word for a dory — and often fishes near his home in Sydney.
He’ll be looking for someone to take him out to the squid jigging ground when the band makes it up this way.
“Let me out there. I’ve got to go. I’ll wear six pairs of stockings, like the song says. It’ll be fantastic.”