Soon May the Wellerman Come
The song was first published in a book of New Zealand folk songs in 1973. In 2020 and 2021, versions by the Longest Johns and Nathan Evans became unlikely viral hits on the social media site TikTok. The history of whaling in New Zealand stretches from the late-eighteenth century to 1965.
About Soon May the Wellerman Come in brief
The song was first published in a book of New Zealand folk songs in 1973. In 2020 and 2021, versions by British folk music group the Longest Johns and Scottish musician Nathan Evans became unlikely viral hits on the social media site TikTok. The history of whaling in New Zealand stretches from the late-eighteenth century to 1965. The industry drew whalers to New Zealand from a diverse range of backgrounds encompassing not just the British Isles but also Native Americans, Pacific Islanders and Indigenous Australians. The Weller brothers’ success in the whaling industry was fleeting, and they were declared bankrupt in 1840 after failed attempts at large-scale land purchase in New South Wales. In its heyday in 1834, the Otakou station was producing 310 tons of whale oil a year and became the centre of a network of seven stations that formed a highly profitable enterprise for the Wellers, employing as many as 85 people at Otago alone.
The song’s lyrics describe a whaling ship called ‘Billy ouin’ and its hunt for a right whale. The chorus continues with the hope of the crew that a wellerman may bring us sugar and tea and rum, to bring us luxuries for a day. The weller brothers owned ships that would sell provisions to whaling boats that would bring them supplies of sugar and rum. In the 19th-century New Zealand, the Weller Brothers would sell tobacco and tobacco spirits and tobacco products to the whaler’s crew. The whaler industry integrated the Maori into the global economy and produced hundreds of intermarriages betweenwhalers and local Maori, including Edward Weller himself, who was twice married to Maori women.