“Once There Were Three Fishermen (The Three Jews)”


"Once there were three fishermen (x2), Fisher fisher men men men (x3) Once there were three fishermen." The three fishermen are named, and their voyages described


This is rather confusing, because the change of one word significantly changes the song. In several texts (Gardner and Chickering, Greenleaf and Mansfield), the three heroes are Jews. But in Pankake, as well as the version printed by Silber, they are fishermen. The latter version is very much a children's song, I've only encountered only two versions of this, and they differ in most particulars: In the Silber version, the sailors are Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and they sail for Amsterdam (with resulting comments about naughty words); Ed McCurdy sings a version with different sailors, in which Halifax is the destination.

In this case, Roud splits the two versions. But the verse form, as well as the names of the characters, says they are the same. - RBW


  1. Greenleaf/Mansfield 176, "The Three Old Jews" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Gardner/Chickering 185, "The Three Jews" (1 text)
  3. Pankake-PHCFSB, p. 85, "Three Jolly Fishermen" (1 text, tune referenced)
  4. Silber-FSWB, p. 240, "Once There Were Three Fishermen" (1 text)
  5. Roud #3708 and 12776
  6. BI, FSWB240A


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1929 (Greenleaf/Mansfield)
Keywords: fishing nonsense
Found in: US(MW) Canada(Mar,Newf)