Aunt Virtue Kean She Wrote This Song, Aha Me B’ys…

Virtue & Captain Job Kean moved to Norton’s Cove around 1879.  They had eleven children, and ran a business together for many years.  Virtue had been raised at Middle Bill Cove, a part of Cape Freels, in Bonavista Bay, just a 15-20 minute drive from Norton’s Cove on modern(ish) roads, and met Job on Flower’s Island where she’d held the position of Schoolmarm.

As far as I can tell, Virtue was in charge of the shop where I sit typing this right now.  It’s known as Kean’s General Store by the Heritage Foundation, or Job Kean Shop, and it has J. KEAN in wooden lettering over the door outside.  I’m thinking of changing the J. to a V.  Maybe even V. HANN.

Virtue Maria (nee: Hann) Kean 1858-1929

But keeping the J. Kean outside the door reminds me how far women have come in the world, since Virtue’s beginnings.  What a strong woman she must have been, to run a very successful business and raise a family (with plenty of tragedy- only 45% of her children reached adulthood) with her partner gone to sea for months at a time.  She was a host to doctors who stayed at her home while working at the clinic that had been set up very nearby.  She kept horses, helped to run the telegraph office (where my woodshed is now), taught Sunday school, and played piano.  And she still made time to write silly folk song lyrics to be sung at community concerts and raise money for charity.

Lukey’s boat is painted green, aha me b’ys
Lukey’s boat is painted green, the prettiest John Dominey ever did see
Aha, aha me riddle I day.


2 thoughts on “Aunt Virtue Kean She Wrote This Song, Aha Me B’ys…

  1. ‘Aunt’ Virtue Kean, as she is known locally, is responsible for writing the folk song Lukey’s Boat sometime before her death in 1929. According to local legend, she performed this song at a concert held at the church hall in Brookfield, making fun of a local resident, Lukey Gaulton. After several verses poking fun at this man’s boat, his thrifty supplies, and immoral marriage practices, the crowd was roaring with laughter. However, the height of the performance came when Lukey himself jumped up on stage and added this verse to Aunt Virtue’s song:

    Aunt Virtue Kean she wrote this song, aha, me b’ys,
    Aunt Virtue Kean she wrote this song,
    Up with the doctors all night long!
    Aha, aha, me riddle I day!


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