MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada
Fifteen Men Lost on George's Banks
Martin Reddigan NFLD 1 Tape 11A Track 10
Calvert Audio:
Ballad / shipwreck Laws D3

Ye hardy sons of Newfoundland I hope you will draw near
And listen unto those few lines that never did ye hear
Being in the fall of sixty-nine by Shea we were took on
We had to leave our homes and friends so dear on the shores of Newfoundland

We first set sail for Montreal employment there to find
To work upon the railroad sure we felt well inclined
All night we lay on the cold ground where the niggers could not stand
It made us curse the hour we left our homes in Newfoundland

We then set sail for Halifax our fortune there to find
To work upon the riverboat our wages they ran high
They robbed us of our earning which put us to our stand
How cruel was she who sent us away from our homes in Newfoundland

We then set sail for Boston from that to Gloucester town
Seeking for employment we wandered all around
The work it being kind of scarce in Gloucester we did appear
We shipped on board of the Morning's Gloom for George's Banks did steer

We anchored on those George's Banks November the twenty-two
It's my intention to relate the hardship we went through
With cyclones and shifting sands and heavy showers of snow
As the wind was to the east-north-east most violently did blow

There were vessels of the noblest mould were sinking all around
And the jovial crew of twenty-two on Georgie that day went down
You'd pity their misfortune to hear their mournful cry
To see those helpless fishermen as they go pass you by

Kind fortune seemed to favour us we had a change of wind
We cut our cable from the bow left Georgie's banks behind
'Twas by our Captain's orders we quickly crowded sail
For four long weary days me boys she ran before the gale

Until our log it told us that the land was drawing nigh
About six o'clock in the afternoon a light we chanced to spy
A light almost revolving like gave us to understand
The most southernmost point I mean Cape Race on the coast of Newfoundland

We tried our best endeavours to round our vessel to
We tried her under double reefs but nothing would she do
"Shake out all reefs," our Captain cried, "for the land we must keep clear."
And for four long hours on a balling stretch on the water she did tear

When she came to and shook herself twas a dismal sight to view
Out of our fourteen fishermen remained but five and two
The rest they were washed overboard as you will understand
They met a cairn and a watery grave on the shores of Newfoundland

Twas early the next morning we sighted the Cape Spear
And to the harbour of St. John's our shipwreck we did steer
Where we met friends kind-hearted ones to listen to our sad tale
While we relate the hardships of those cold November gales

The hardships of those George's Banks no penman can pen down
For I fished east and west my boys and I fished all around
Well I fished east and west my boys in stormy wintertime
But there's none compared to George's Banks let all their force combine

(speaks) B'y that's a hard song for a man to sing


Notes

Sources: Laws D3;Mercer 120, Leach 204 ("George's Banks"), Peacock 916, 918 ("George's Banks (The Shea Gang"), 919, ("You Roving Boys of Newfoundland") Roud 2229.

History: The event narrated is a storm of 1862 that saw fifteen ships from Gloucester and the crews of thirteen go down.

Text notes: Gloucester fishermen describe their voyage and the storm that destroyed fifteen ships.

Tune notes: A classic, arch-shaped, abba melody in Dorian mode, sung flexibly. Martin Reddigan's tune available on this site is the same basic melody as Paddy Rossiter's (transcribed by Peacock), but the two singers individual styles are readily evident if the performances are compared.

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