The Water Witch (MacEdward Leach) videos
(Bravery Of Pouch Cove Fishermen)
#1661: YouTube video
by bobinpouchcove
℗2011 ~ Used with permission ~

All true-born Newfoundlanders,
pray hearken unto me,
And hear your messmates tell you
all the dangers of the sea;
You all remember Pouch Cove well,
and the true sons so brave,
Who saved the crew of the Water Witch
so near a watery grave.

On Christmas Eve this craft did leave
as loud the winds did roar,
And on a reef she came to grief
not far from Pouch Cove shore;
A place well called the Horrid Gulch
this schooner headed on,
And in the twinkling of an eye
three poor, dear souls were gone.

Two seamen from the Water Witch
leaped when they heard the shock,
The rest belong to that doomed ship
were huddled on a rock;
To wait for hours through hail and showers
as loud the seas did dash,
And see their schooner breaking up
hard on the cliff did crash.

Punts, ropes, and lanterns soon were brought
by kind and willing hands,
The shrieks of females in distress
our fishermen could not stand;
And how to face the Horrid Gulch
six hundred feet to go,
To save those souls half dead with cold
who waited down below.

Brave Alfred Moores, a Pouch Cove man,
"I'll take the lead," he cried,
While 'round his waist strong hempen ropes
with heavy knots they tied;
And now strong men are on the top
to lower him o'er the cliff,
To dash our hero down below
'neath blinding snow and drift.

Three times they swung him in the dark
through blinding drift and cold,
Before his feet could get a place
to give him any hold;
At last he found a resting place
just 'neath a shelving stone,
Where he could see those souls below
and hear each dismal moan.

And now to save this shipwrecked crew
his heart is filled with hope,
Six more brave Pouch Cove fishermen
like heroes man the rope;
And now a small handline by Moores,
he managed for to lower,
Till all the Water Witch's crew
are landed safe on shore.

But, hark! Another scream is heard,
the people get a shock,
Another female left below
to perish on the rock;
When Alfred makes another dash,
as loud the wind do roar,
And brings a woman in his arms
in safety to the shore.

The news was soon in town next day
about the Water Witch,
The whole community got a shock,
the poor as well as rich;
The Governor soon sent home word
in letters bold and grand,
To tell of the pluck of fishermen
belong to Newfoundland.

The Humane Society of Liverpool
did very soon send here,
Gold Medals for our fishermen
that never knew no fear;
The Governor's Lady pinned them on,
those medals rare and rich,
The Pouch Cove men who saved the lives
on board the Water Witch.

So here's success to our bold men
who risk in storms or breeze,
Their precious lives for saving souls
who venture on the seas;
May peace and plenty be their lot
this true and sterling band,
Brave Alfred Moores and all the rest
belong to Newfoundland.

####.... Author unknown. Traditional Newfoundland song ....####
The above lyrics were sung by Richard Moores [1911-1975] of Pouch Cove, NL (son of the song's hero, Alfred Moores) and published in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada, ©2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

On an audiotape made immediately before the taping of this song, accession #78-054 NFLD 1 Tape 13 Track 1, MacEdward Leach also collected the story of the Water Witch from the singer's next door neighbour who bore the same name as the singer's father and the hero, Alfred Moores [d.1956]. In the audio taped story, the date of this event is given as Nov 29, 1875.

The video above was produced in 2010 for the Pouch Cove Heritage Committee by Po Chun Lau, and features a variant of The Water Witch as sung by Pouch Cove native Patrick Moran. The song tells the story of the Water Witch shipwreck in the Horrid Gulch of Pouch Cove. Included in the video are some spectacular photographs of the Horrid Gulch taken by Rennie Sullivan, and other photographs by Bob Brink and Po Chun Lau.

A variant was collected in 1980 from Pius Powers, Sr of Southeast Bight, NL, by Genevieve Lehr and Anita Best and published as #116 in Come And I Will Sing You: A Newfoundland Songbook, pp.197-198 edited by Genevieve Lehr (University of Toronto Press ©1985/2003).

Genevieve Lehr noted that Mr Power learned this song from his Uncle Frank: he presumed the ship left England for Newfoundland but went aground in Pouch Cove, that the loss occurred in 1875, and that she belonged to Cupids. However, Lehr continued, in When Was That? Mosdell says the Water Witch, a Brigus schooner commanded by Captain Spracklin, was lost at Pouch Cove with nine persons on 29 November 1873; eleven lives were saved by Alfred Moore

See more Lehr and Best songs.

This variant was also recorded by Anita Best (Crosshanded, 1997 CD, trk#6 Amber Music, Topsail, NL).

See more Anita Best songs.

A similar variant was published by Gerald S Doyle in Old-Time Songs And Poetry Of Newfoundland: Songs Of The People From The Days Of Our Forefathers, 1st Ed, pp.61-63, 1927.

An earlier variant was printed in 1905 as Loss Of The Water Witch on pp.24-26 of Murphy's Sealers' Song Book, and in 1912 as Bravery Of Pouch Cove Fishermen on pp.10-11 of Old Songs Of Newfoundland, and also in 1923 again as Loss Of The Water Witch on pp.11-12 of Songs Their Fathers Sung, For Fishermen: Old Time Ditties, all three were published in St John's by James Murphy [1867-1931].

James Murphy's Publisher's Notes:
The loss of the schooner Water Witch occurred near Pouch Cove in 1875; Pouch Cove is about 18 miles from St John's. The Water Witch belonged to Cupids, Conception Bay. The rescuers received gold medals from England for their bravery.

Note: H M Mosdell reported in When Was That (The Trade Printers and Publishers, Ltd, 1923) that the Water Witch, a Brigus schooner commanded by Captain Spracklin, sank on November 29, 1875, at Pouch Cove, NL, with the loss of nine lives. Alfred Moores saved eleven.

The video below features Allison Crowe of Nanaimo, BC and Corner Brook, NL (Newfoundland Vinyl II, 2014 LP and CD, Rubenesque Records Ltd, Salt Spring Island, BC)

#2061: YouTube video
by Allison Crowe
℗2014 ~ Used with permission ~

See more Allison Crowe songs.

See more NL shipwreck songs.


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