The Wreck Of The Steamship Florizel (Doyle) score

sheet music

Attention, fellow countrymen, while this sad tale I'll tell,
About the well-known steamboat, the SS Florizel;
When gravely harmed up near Renews, the steamer came to grief,
Caught in a blinding snowstorm, she ran up on a reef.

Last Saturday night at eight o'clock the steamer left the pier,
With every indication, a storm was drawing near;
With Captain Martin on the bridge, she sailed that afternoon,
With one hundred and thirty passengers in the steerage and saloon.

A blinding snowstorm did come on before she left Cape Spear,
She being a strong and powerful boat, the passengers had no fear;
While in their bunks they lay at night, a calm and peaceful sleep,
Not thinking before it was morning they'd be buried in the deep.

Up near Renews as morning dawned all hands received a shock,
When scrambling from their berths that night, they found she'd struck a rock;
Some rushed on deck, being scarcely clad, in hopes their lives to save,
The sea soon washed them off her deck into the angry waves.

"She's on the rocks! She's on the rocks!" the passengers did cry,
Poor helpless women in their berths gave up their lives to die;
While strong men scrambled up in hopes their precious lives to save,
The sea soon washed them off her deck into the angry waves.

Many cried and others prayed that help would be nearby,
And to attract them on the shore, more signals they did fly;
And soon a large ship she was seen, who took them from the wreck,
And only forty lives were saved out of one hundred six.

A gloom was cast on every home to hear the saddening news,
About the Florizel went down when wrecked up near Renews;
And ninety-four their precious lives that evening left the shore,
They met their doom a-drowning - we'll see them nevermore.

####.... Joan Endacott, 1921; music by Harvey Freeman, 1929 ....####
Published in Gerald S Doyle's Old-Time Songs And Poetry Of Newfoundland: Songs Of The People From The Days Of Our Forefathers (Second edition, p.31, 1940; Third edition, p.72, 1955).

Also published on pp.31-32 of Songs Of Newfoundland, a complimentary booklet of lyrics to twenty-one songs distributed by the Bennett Brewing Co Ltd, of St John's, NL, with the cooperation of the Gerald S Doyle Song Book from which the above lyrics were obtained.

A variant with a different tune was collected in 1983 from Elsie Best (Anita Best's mother) of St John's, NL, by Genevieve Lehr and Anita Best and published as #38, The Florizel, in Come And I Will Sing You: A Newfoundland Songbook, pp.66-67, edited by Genevieve Lehr (University of Toronto Press © 1985/2003).

Genevieve Lehr noted that Mrs. Best learned the song from Gerald Doyle's songbook and put her own air to it.

See more songs by Lehr and Best

¹ The SS Florizel of the Red Cross Line, owned by C T Bowrings & Company of St John's, NL, was one of the world's first icebreakers and a sealing vessel. She regularly carried passengers on the St John's to Halifax to New York City route, and in 1914, transported 500 volunteers of the Blue Puttees (the First Newfoundland Regiment) to the front in heavy seas and headwinds.
² On the 23rd of February 1918, on the way from St John's to Halifax, the Florizel struck a reef at Horn Head Point near Renews. Because of the storm's severity fishermen on shore from Cappahayden were powerless to help. The vessels Gordon C, Terra Nova, Home, Hawk, and Prospero all arrived to attempt rescue without success until a day later, after the storm had calmed. Of the 138 souls on board only 44 survived. Full details of the disaster can be found in Cassie Brown's A Winter's Tale [Toronto: Doubleday 1976]
³ A young girl named Betty Munn drowned when the Florizel sank. In her memory a statue of Peter Pan was placed in Bowrings Park.

See more songs about NFLD shipwrecks.


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