MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada
Ghost Fishermen
Paddy Maher NFLD 1 Tape 16A Track 8
Flatrock Audio:

It's always laid down in tradition that if a man is lost out of a ship crossing the ocean that when the ship'll come to that certain place on the way home his ghost will board the ship and come back in her. But in 1914 the worst sealing disaster ever happened in Newfoundland happened. There was a ship to the ice that year, her name was The Newfoundland and she lost seventy-seven men out of two hundred men of her crew. The men left the ship the thirtieth morning of March and they went on the ice to kill the seals and a storm carne up and it lasted all the thirtieth of March and the thirty-first and when they were discovered there were seventy-seven dead. So the other ships came in and the crew went through the ice and picked up the dead members and they got seventy-two: five were missing. They were never got: they were supposed to be drowned. So that ship the next year didn't go to the ice at all; she wasn't allowed to go; she had to undergo certain repairs. So in 19 and 16 she was repaired and went out under another name. Her name was the Sam Blandford and I happened to be one of her crew.

So all spring we were separated from other ships alone by ourselves until the thirtieth day of March. The thirtieth evening of March we steamed up alongside of another ship the Terra Nova. The captain of our ship and the captain of the Terra Nova were both brothers. So when we came up it was just dusk, a very foggy thick evening, and we … the Terra Nova started to blow her whistle. That was a sign to us that she had some men on the ice somewhere that didn't get aboard. So as is the custom our captain started to blow the whistle too thinking they were the Terra Nova 's and the Terra Nova men blew thinking that they were our men. Because they heard the men hello and sing out away … away on the ice. So the blowing finally kept up until 10 o'clock and both ships … one ship stopped and then the other stopped blowing.

So next morning I was one of the men that went aboard the Terra Nova and the first thing they asked me was what time our men got aboard. And I said we hadn't any men on the ice that day. "Oh." they said "yes ye had got men on the ice, because we saw the men: we heard them first hello and sing out on the ice and we watched them till they walked up the side of the ship and went aboard." Well, we didn't know what to think of it at the time but some men was in the crew declare and solemnly swear that they did see certain men that they knew among what came aboard. So l think that brings the tradition true that men do come home.


One of three ghost stories told by Paddy Maher. The wreck of the Newfoundland is the subject of Cassie Brown's Death on the Ice.

This story appeared on MacEdward Leach's album Songs From the Out-Ports of Newfoundland (1966, Folkways FE 4075), as track B1, with the name "The Story of the Sealing Vessel, The Newfoundland." His notes are as follows:

Sailors over the seven seas hold to a superstition that the revenant or spirit of a sailor lost overboard will return to his ship the next time it passes the spot where he was drowned. The story which Pat Maher of Pouch Cove tells here is based on such an event, one which Mr. Maher participated in. The sonmg which follows Mr. Maher's story is a ballad version of such an event.

Ths song Leach is referring to is Twelve Ghostly Fishermen, sung by Morris Houlihan.

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