Cette chanson terre-neuvienne enjouée et joviale date du XIXe siècle. D’un auteur inconnu, la chanson reflète à quel point les ports de pêche de la province dépendaient de la mer. Elle est devenue un classique du folklore national, figurant dans l’ouvrage Folk Songs of Canada, d’Edith Fowke et de Richard Johnston, d’après la transcription du folkloriste Kenneth Peacock. La version de Johnston est présente dans une publication de 1965 des Musées nationaux du Canada. Une transcription originale de la chanson a été faite par l’homme d’affaires Gerald Doyle et publiée dans le recueil Old-Time Songs and Poetry of Newfoundland.
I’s the B’y is a bouncy, fast, raucous jig replete with colourful local references and dialect. The lyrics paint the picture of a simple, but very full, life. The singer brags of his all-round skills as a fisherman: he not only builds his own boat, but sails it and brings home his codfish catch to boot. “Fish,” of course, means that Newfoundland staple, codfish; “rinds” and “flakes” were low-tech items employed in the fish-drying process. The singer looks forward to his simple sailor’s supper of “cake” (basic hardtack biscuit). When the day’s work is done, everyone heads to the local dance for entertainment, with a caller giving the instructions “hip your partner” (bump your hip against your partner) and “all around the circle.”
Local place names on The Rock create further local colour – Bonavista, Fogo, Twillingate, and Moreton’s Harbour.
I’s the B’y has been recorded by many Newfoundland musicians, among them Great Big Sea, country singer Dick Nolan, Harry Hibbs, Ray Walsh, Wilf Doyle, Shanneyganock, and actor Gordon Pinsent. In the mid-1900s it was picked up by nationally-known folk singers Alan Mills, The Travellers, and Omar Blondahl, and soon became essential repertoire for countless choirs in every province, as well as a favourite choice for Canadian folk song recordings.
Folk artists from farther afield in Ireland (Ryan’s Fancy), the U.S. (Gordon Bok), and Scotland (Ian Benzie) have also paid tribute to I’s the B’y.
The fun ditty is now widely thought of as a children’s song, being learned in school and organizations such as the Girl Guides and through recordings and performances by children’s entertainers like Sharon, Lois and Bram; Andrew Queen; and CBC television character Captain Claw.
In 1993, Canada Post issued an I’s the B’y postage stamp honouring the song.