The Six-Horsepower Cooker

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R.R. 2, Box 697, St. Michaels, Maryland 21663

Last summer my wife and I spent a long vacation in Newfoundland and Labrador. A fisherman in Labrador recited a very humorous rhyme about 'The Six-Horsepower Coaker.' I had already learned about Sir William Ford Coaker who formed the Fishermen's Protective Union in Newfoundland in 1908 to better the life of fishermen. Among the various steps taken was the formation of a fishermen's cooperative (The Fishermen's Union Trading Company) to sell supplies to fishermen and to export fish, bypassing the private merchants. He was knighted by the king for aiding the fishermen.

'The Six-Horsepower Coaker' I found in a school textbook, Our Newfoundland & Labrador Cultural History. A Newfoundland accent is needed to do it justice.

In the Provincial Archives I found several advertisements for the Coaker. It reproduced poorly because the newspaper was badly yellowed. The ads tell that he had engines built in the USA and marketed by his trading company. They were appropriately named 'The Coaker.' The ads in his newspaper, the Fishermen's Advocate, say he had contracted for 1000 engines and was selling them at wholesale prices. They were sold for 'Trap Skiffs and large size Fishing Bullies.' There were 2, 4, 6, 8, 12, and 16 HP models; all but the 2 HP were four cycle. I believe the 8, 12, and 16 HP engines had two cylinders.

There was no indication as to who built the Coaker. However, I identified them when I got home. The four cycle engines were built by Loane-Hiltz Engineering Company in Baltimore and called by them 'The Fisherman.'

The Loane-Hiltz design is interesting as it is a reversible four cycle engine. It has a suction-operated intake valve and the exhaust rocker arm is operated by a face cam on the top of a half-speed vertical shaft. The cam has two profiles, one for each direction of rotation. The roller on the rocker arm can be shifted to either cam. Ralph Retallack had one running at the Tuckahoe Show this year. With practice, the engine can be reversed without a stop, like reversing a two-cycle 'on the switch.' Mr. Retallack's engine has large windows in the cooling jackets of both the cylinder and head.

The Six-Horsepower Coaker

You fishermen free that go forth on the sea, With engines of various makes, This old jump-spark of mine, I would take every time You can keep all your new make-and-breaks.

She was tied up with twine, there were bits of tarred line Round the timer to keep it in place. Her compression was weak and the air used to leakWhere the packing was blown from the base.

She was easy on fuel, but she kicked like a mule, For the screws on the beddin' were slack. And we all of us swore, when she's rise from the floor, We feared that she'd never come back.

So we lashed her with wire and a motor car tire, O, how we did labour and scote,And with posts on each side, we earnestly tried To keep her from leavin' the boat.

This motor of ours has miraculous powers, One summer we broke our pump band, Now they cost quite a lot, so when she got hot, We cooled off that Coaker by hand.

One evenin' last fall we went out to our trawl Though it looked like 'twas going to blow. We turned to go in, in the teeth of the wind With a cross-handed dory in tow.

Tom hove up the wheel, and he cussed a good deal, He cranked till he found of his heart, He tested the oil, examined the coil, But the divil, a bit, would she start.

'Twas coming on night, with the seas feather white. When up to us rowed a small skiff, And a bedlamer boy with a cast in his eye, Kindly offered to give us a lift.

The kid stepped aboard, with the air of a lord, His movements unhurried and slow; He noted the string and the window blind spring, But he got that old Coaker to go.

Just a poor homeless lad, he hadn't a dad And his name you may never have heard; But the boat swung about, as he opened her out, And she rose to the waves like a bird.

So we shipped on that kid, and we're sure glad we did, Now it's seldom we ask for a tow; And he gets a full share, which I think only fair For getting that Coaker to go.

Go, go he makes that thing go. How he does it I'm sure I don't know; We can race with the Clyde, and we'll keep her 'longside When he coaxes that Coaker to go.

'The Six-Horsepower Coaker' is from Songs of a Newfoundlander, by Arthur Scammel, 1940.