Skipper Michael Gill, 1704 (A J O'Rielly)

O'er lovely Bonavista
the August night came down,
And stars like gems were gleaming
within her azure crown;
The dusky wings of midnight
were brooding o'er the scene,
O'er Bonavista's waters
and circling hills of green.

Borne by the landward zephyrs,
bright wavelets swept the bay,
And moved in dancing ripples near
where the Pembroke lay;
Enwrapt the good ship William
with her rich freight of train,
And greeted the Society
with kisses of the main.

Peace, with her sister Beauty,
held all the shores in fee,
And Silence held them close embraced
in tranquil sympathy;
On such a night might lovers vow
love's promise ever dear,
On such a night but craven heart
could hold one thought of fear.

Ere midnight hour had ended,
grey mists swept up the bay,
And hung a filmy curtain 'round
where the good ship lay;
As with a full enchantment
the shore and houses spread,
And Bonavista silent lay
a harbour of the dead.

Beware, O Bonavista!
Is this a night to sleep?
Unless some guard be watchful,
tomorrow babes may weep;
Unless some gallant here
be now prepared to fight,
Tomorrow widows well may weep
their husbands slain tonight.

D'Ibberville's apt pupil,
LaGrange, is on the sea,
His hundred Abenaquis
are armed cap-a-pie;
With scalping knife and tomahawk.
May God their purpose foil,
Ere these red demons stain
with blood fair Bonavista's soil.

Swift swept canoes and shallops
to where the Pembroke lay,
As silent as the fog sweeps up
on Bonavista Bay;
Then tomahawk and scalping-knife
grew dripping red with gore,
And in a few short moments
that bloody fight was o'er.

The William and Society
with little fight were won,
LaGrange's troop triumphant,
the new day just begun;
The cloak of mist had vanished
and on the tranquil tide,
The captured ships flung boldly forth
the French flag in its pride.

Some sound of oar or paddle
reached skipper Michael Gill,
Some startled shriek, some drowning groan,
then all again was still;
Then to a youngster of his crew he cried,
"Swim swift to land,
And warn Bonavista that danger is at hand.

"Now boldly wrap our mizzen
the good old flag we'll drape,
And, boys, bring up your round shot,
your canister and grape;
We'll give LaGrange, the valiant,
of bitter fight his fill,
But never shall the French flag wave
o'er skipper Michael Gill.

"They have the good ship Pembroke
with great guns twenty-four,
And on the ship Society
there's ten or maybe more;
And we are but fourteen guns,
their metal good and rare,
We'll fire three volleys to their one
and that will make us square."

For hours the great guns thundered
and skipper Michael Gill,
Saw that each gun was pointed
with marksmanship and skill;
Then said LaGrange,
"This cochon to conquer doth aspire,
So what our cannon cannot do
we shall achieve by fire."

So down on skipper Michael
the bark Society,
Came blazing in a flame of fire,
a fearsome sight to see;
And with the tide the William,
her oily freight ablaze,
A spectacle to strike the heart
with horror and amaze.

Then skipper Gill, the dauntless,
gave proof of whence he came,
As he and his heroic crew
strove mid the smoke and flame;
And scarce the danger ended,
when, hark! a mighty cheer,
And Bonavista's armed bands
upon the hills appear.

Then as the fox takes cover
when baying hounds draw near,
And as the shadows vanish
when day breaks bright and clear;
So fled LaGrange's soldiers
and Abenaquis band,
To scalp, tomahawk and burn
elsewhere than Newfoundland.

Now, lasses, give a gay, glad hand,
and, lads, your glasses fill,
And give acclaim and drink a toast
to skipper Michael Gill;
And if again such dangers
e'er threaten Newfoundland,
May we have skippers just as brave
the foeman to withstand.

####.... A J O'Rielly ....####
From the Dictionary Of Newfoundland English:
Train - oil rendered from the blubber of whales or from other marine creatures, especially fish; cod oil.

From the French: Cochon - pig.

Notes: This song deals with the planned French and Indian raid on Bonavista, NL. A J O'Rielly was a magistrate in the Newfoundland Government and was born at Placentia. Captain Michael Gill came from Charlestown, MA. His sons settled in NL.


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