MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada
Petty Harbour Bait Skiff
Performed by Pat Sullivan Accession # 78-054 NFLD 1 Tape 1A Track 14
Community: Calvert Audio:
Genre: Ballad / disaster at sea  


It happened to be in the summertime in the lovely month of June
When the fields are green fair to be seen and valleys were in bloom
When silent fountains do run clear caressed by heaven's rain
And the dewey showers that fall at night to fertilize the plain

We bid adieu to all our friends and those we held most dear
Being bound for Petty Harbour in the springtime of the year
The little birds as we sail on flew o'er the hills and dales
Whilst flora from her sportive groves sent forth her pleasant gales

On Saturday we sailed away being in the evening late
Bound unto Conception Bay all for a load of bait
The seagulls flying in the air and pitching o'er the shore
What little we thought t'would be our lot to see our friends no more

The weather being fine we lost no time until we were homeward bound
The whales were sporting in the deep and the swordfish swimming round
And Luna bright shone forth at night to illuminate the sea
And the stars shone bright to guide us right upon our route pathway

We shook our reefs, trimmed our sails across the bay did stand
The sun did rise all (circleized ?) like steamers o'er the land
The clouds lay in the atmosphere for our destruction meant
And breeze blew a heavy squall our boat was overset

When we came to the Morrard head a rainbow did appear
There was every indication that a storm was drawing near
Old Neptune riding on the waves to windward of us lay
You'd think the ocean was on fire in Petty Harbour Bay

John French was our commander, Mike Sullivan second hand
And all the rest was brave young men reared up in Newfoundland
Six brave youths to tell the truth were buried in the sea
But the Lord preserved young Mention's life for to live another day

Your heart would ache all for their sake if you were standing by
To see them drowning one by one and no relief being nigh
Struggling with the boisterous all in their youth and bloom
But alas they sank to rise no more all on the 8th of June

Jacob Chafe, the hero brave and champion of that day
He boldly la'nched the boat with speed and quickly … (tape ends)


Sources: Mercer 167, Bennett 20. Blondahl 99, Doyle 1927:55, Doyle 1940:48, Doyle 1955:46, Fowke 44, Mills 29, Murphy 1905:24 (title variant), Murphy 1912: 4 (title variant), Murphy 1902:6, Murphy 1923:8, Nolan 22, Old T 7, AG 1, 37, West2:40. For recordings by the CJON Glee Club, Commodore's Quartet, Bob McLeod, Gordon Pinsent, St. John's Extension Choir, Omar Blondahl, and Alan Mills, see Taft 91. Roud 4410

History: Typical sea disater song concerning an event that occurred in June 1852, composed by John Grace.

Text: Folklorist Philip Hiscock writes that "commemorative songs" such as this use florid language. Note here imagery such as "The seagulls flying in the air and pitching o'er the shore," or "The whales were sporting in the deep and the swordfish swimming round," or "The sun did rise all (circleized ?) like steamers o'er the land."

Tune: The line repetition pattern of abba, typical of many 19th century ballads, characterizes this tune. The large leaps and range of the first line extending to the highest note, however, are distinctive. This tune, in 4/4 metre, differs from the one published in the Doyle songsters and elsewhere.

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