MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada
The Water Witch
Alfred Moores NFLD 1 Tape 13 Track 1
Pouch Cove Audio:

Now you want me to try to explain some of the story?

Leach: That's right, the story of the Water Witch

Yes; well now the schooner leaves St. John's on the night of Nov. the 29th. She belonged to Brigus up here in Conception Bay …

Leach: What year was that?

. this bay here down to Cape St. Francis is the … is the most southernmost cape of the bay, you know; bay we call it, Conception Bay … Brigus, Conception Bay these men belonged to.

Leach: What year was it?


Leach: 1875.

Yeah, 75, 1875, that was the date, Nov the 29th. And they were like all other men: they were going home for the winter with their supplies aboard, their provisions for the winter. There was eight or ten men on her and a couple of women, you know. And they leave St. John's in the night… perhaps after dark. And they only got fifteen miles or eighteen miles before they be around the cape down here, Cape St. Francis, to go up the bay you know, go up in their own bay, Conception Bay, Brigus. And they'd only have about, what would it be, Paul? Thirty or forty miles from the cape up to Brigus, yes about forty miles I expect. So they thought, I suppose they had her timed and logged as far as I know from St. John's until they go around Cape St. Francis here to take. go in their own bay. The wind was in probably southeast, but probably they had her timed and logged I don't know that. And they thought they were far enough to go up the bay, haul her up the southwest here, they were coming down probably north-northeast from St. John's until they get down off our cape here, Cape St. Francis. Well then they'd haul in the bay then up southwest to go up to their own place when they'd run down about eighteen miles. So when they hauled her up southwest after coming down from St. John's, as they thought they're off the cape when they hauled her in southwest this is where she brought up, about a half a mile down here from our cove in this gulch we call Horrid Gulch.

Leach: Horrid Gulch?

Horrid Gulch, Horrid Gulch. They saw nothing until she went crush into the cliff, you know, very dark night you know, very dark night. And I suppose they had lights that they could see. Anyway there was two men when she struck the cliff, there was two men jumped on the north side of the gulch. They was going to save their lives or lose them. And they jumped, two men on this cliff. And anyway, when she struck on the cliff and her bow struck the north side of the gulch, she payed over on the other side, on the deep open […] cliff side. When she struck that side she went right in the gulch in the bottom of the gulch. Her bows was broken, then, on both sides and she went in the bottom of the gulch. And I think twas seven that lodged on this Island rock in the bottom of the gulch. Seven men I think and I'm not so sure but there was a woman among them. I'm not so sure of that but I did hear the story but twas so long ago I've forgotten some of this. And any way there's a road leading, at that time there was a road leading from here down to Cape St. Francis you know, there should be. And them men managed to haul their selves up over the cliff these two men in the dark you know, and they got up in the road. And they had to go no distance only a few ball shots you know when they were out on a ridge as they could look down in the cove here and they saw the lights. And they come up to the first house it was down on the North side down here and they saw the lights and they got to them houses and broke the news. And it went from one to the other through the cove you know that the men got on the scene. And when they got there they heard this bawling down in the gulch, those men on this Island rock. And they scrabbled again and they got ropes and canvas and all that and they got on the scene. And there was the breaking up of the vessel in the gulch they could hear, and they could here the bawling of these men: "Can you save me? Can you save me?" And they got on the scene with ropes and lanterns and all that and, ah "What are we to do?" And this man said he'd risk his own life to try to save the men and they all with bravery you know but this brave man, uh, they said he'd run the risk to go over the cliff to the lowered down in the Gulch.

Leach: What was his name?

Here it is here on this; you just saw it there sir (laughs) Alfred Moores. Here it is here you…I just … Alfred Moores. And they tied a big line around his waist, probably a two inch or two and half rope and he went down, lowered him down in the gulch. And when he got down in the gulch where they were to, it had happened that way he had lodged on a shelf of rock. Now they were in. they were. they stood on this island rock, water between him and where they were lodged you know. And he could talk to them then, he could talk to them. And he says, "I'll try to save you." So he sung out for another big line. They lowered down or hove down another big line and they. he just have them a hand-line, you know with this line, and he told them then to fasten themselves around the waist with that big line, and they did so, one after the other. And they all passed up by himself while he was lodging on this shelf of a rock in the gulch. And he passed them all up one after the other: when one'd go up they'd heave down the rope again until he passed, I think, there was a man and a woman up. Spoke to them all as calm as he'd haul them in where he was to on the shelf of the rock. He'd to them all they'd pass them up they'd haul them up you know, until they hauled up the seven and I think a woman. Well then the news went on to St. John's then. And it went to the Governor of the bravery of the people in this place, the loss of the schooner. And, uh, and I think it was three or four that was drowned, you know. The neighbours and the bravery of this man to go over a precipice cliff you know on such a night as this to save. save those men. And it went to the Governor and the Governor had it sent over to England you know. He sent it over to England. So, ah, my father, this man he was presented with a medal and this watch. So now I can hardly explain any more of the story to you.

Leach: That's fine


This story was immediately followed by a song which tells the same story. Leach transcribed "Horrid" as "Howard."

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