Soon may the Wellerman come

Music: anon. arr. Sheena Phillips. Words: anon. (New Zealand)
SATB with body percussion etc. ad lib
Performance time approx 2m 00s
Range S: c' – c'' (descant: g' – e''♭) / A: c' – c'' / T: c – c' / B: G – c'
Price code: B
Complexity: **

See a perusal copy of the music.
Hear a synthesized realisation
We’ve jumped on the Wellerman bandwagon. This nautical folk song, as performed by Nathan Evans, went viral on TikTok at the start of 2021 – and inspired numerous cover versions, mash-ups and other creative responses.

Interesting background on the Wellerman company, what tonguing is, and how the song has travelled down the generations, can be found on the excellent New Zealand Folk Song website.

We also recommend the video about the TikTok shanty phenonemon by Adam Neely. As he points out, Wellerman itself is not a work shanty – but it’s fun to sing and has been helping many people get through coronavirus season.

Sheena’s simple arrangement is based on Nathan Evans’ tune and includes an optional descant, an optional off-kilter interlude between verses, and other suggestions for making the performance your own. The audio realisation illustrates a few of these ideas. Have fun!


There once was a ship that put to sea,
The name of the ship was the Billy of Tea.
The winds blew up, her bow dipped down,
O blow, my bully boys, blow.

Soon may the Wellerman come
To bring us sugar and tea and rum.
One day, when the tonguin’ is done,
We’ll take our leave and go.

She had not been two weeks from shore
When down on her a right whale bore.
The captain called all hands and swore
He’d take that whale in tow.

Before the boat had hit the water
The whale’s tail came up and caught her.
All hands to the side, harpooned and fought her
When she dived down below.

No line was cut, no whale was freed;
The captain’s mind was not of greed,
But he belonged to the whaleman’s creed;
She took the ship in tow.

For forty days, or even more,
The line went slack, then tight once more.
All boats were lost (there were only four)
But still the whale did go.

As far as I’ve heard, the fight’s still on;
The line’s not cut and the whale’s not gone.
The Wellerman makes his regular call
To captain, crew and all.


Purchase – 2063: Soon may the Wellerman come

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