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 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
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.