Everyone and his brother’s had a crack at this folksong. For me, trying to learn a new song is in itself a voyage of adventure and discovery. Working out what the lyrics mean can sometimes be a tad difficult, especially when the songwriter was self medicating on some serious ‘sxxt’ at the time and if asked, probably doesn’t have a clue either. However, in the case of The Wellerman’, an internet search quickly unearths the origins.
“The Weller Bros. was a Sydney Australia shore-whaling company that operated primarily along the southern coast of New Zealand from 1830 to 1840. Though they had numerous vessels in their employ, none appear to have been named the ‘Billy o’ Tea’ (pot for making tea obvs.). Anyone under the employ of the Weller Bros. were referred to as a Wellerman, but in the specific context of the song the Wellerman takes on the meaning of a supply ship sent by the company.
Tonguing refers to the tonguers, the part of a shore whaling team responsible for butchering the whale after it had been caught.”
Anyway, herewith, yet another version…