11 June 2024

The Wonderful Wellerman!

What do sea shanties and TikTok have in common? The answer: Nathan Evans – the new Scottish singing sensation from Airdrie, Scotland. This former postman’s love of folky pirate songs and sea shanties, propelled him onto the social media site, where he uploaded videos of himself singing.

The track that brought him word-wide overnight fame on TikTok? An acappella version of “Wellerman,” a sea shanty about whalers awaiting a resupply ship in the mid 1800s. Evans’s version got 8 million views and kick-started his music career. Not often do obscure old folk songs haul in a three-album record deal.

Recalling fondly a childhood scene of his granddad, and mum and dad playing VHS tapes of old Scottish folk songs performed by the Albany Shantymen, a grown-up Evans decided to start singing them himself.

“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.”

The irresistibly mysterious chorus, perhaps, was the main hook for his millions of fans.

Wellerman is, in fact, a New Zealand folk song. The Weller Brothers were Englishmen who immigrated to Sydney.  Known as the ‘Wellermen’, Edward, George and Joseph brought in provisions for whalers in New Zealand and supplied them from the whaling station they owned in on Otago Harbour.

The song portrays the determination of the crew on the Billy o’Tea – a real-life whaling ship, to bring in a whale. Even as time passes and the quadruple of whaling boats is lost in the fight, they never give up. While locked in this ongoing struggle, the whalers are heartened by the regular call of the Wellerman with his strengthening goodies.

The lyrics refer to “tonguin,'” which will be the last step of the whalers’ plight. Tonguing in this context refers to the practice of slicing strips of whale blubber to turn into oil.

Nathan’s punchy take on Wellerman – named the ‘Saltwives Mix’ – features on the music video shot from Portencross Pier near West Kilbride. The wild and moody background in the video compliments the raw and spirited song. Set against cliffs, rocks and a troubled sea, Evans is seen rhythmically thumping his guitar with his closed fist. His appearance – he’s wearing a hoodie and baseball cap – means that he could easily be transposed to an urban landscape, and the pier on which he sits could easily be the roof of a high-rise concrete tower block. This is another element of Evans’s huge appeal.

Portencross itself is a perfect location. It is said that Portencross Castle, built in the mid-1300’s, was the last resting place of the great kings of Scotland. Legend has it that they lay in the castle on their way to Iona, where they were to be buried. They lay in state at Portencross Castle temporarily.

We eagerly await Nathan’s upcoming gig on Wednesday 8th Dec 2021, at

Colours (formerly Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen) in Shoreditch. This is an up-and-coming live talent venue. There have been some electric performances at Colours over the years, from a plethora of world-renowned bands.

Shoreditch, hold onto your hats – Soon will the Wellerman come!

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