The Loss Of The Eliza (Kenneth Peacock)

The brave Eliza spread her sails
that morning in the bay,
And soon before a freshening breeze
was speeding on her way;
Fort Amherst heard their youthful crew
sing cheerily as they passed,
But at Fort Amherst little knew
that sailing was their last.

Only the seabirds overhead
encircling in the blue,
Screamed down the wind in fear
as if there's some strange terror new;
Far far ahead on the ocean bed
where spectres lie in wait,
For to ensnare some passing ship,
another prize to take.

Yet cheerily the Eliza's crew
intoned their sailing song,
And merrily their good ship
bounds o'er sunlit waves along;
The dark spray sparkling 'round her bow
gives promise fair that day,
How false that promise now we know
in sad St Mary's Bay!

Now storms have come to Newfoundland
by stealth and treachery,
The foul nor'easter's chilly hand
is black with tragedy;
So the brave schooner Eliza
on this October day,
Must match her all unequal strength
with furrows that cross her way.

Quick sped the gallant schooner
Eliza up the shore,
Close to the wind she's hauling
like many a time before;
With Captain James Ahearn
to keep her tiller true,
His brother and young Bunyan
are sturdy sailors, too.

They have bettered many a tempest wave
through nights of stress and dread.
To reach their destination home,
St Mary's Riverhead;
But many a hardy sailor has sailed
far far seas to come
To grief when near some beacon clear
that lights the way to home.

Torrential rain strikes on the main
like to a hand of hate,
The waters near grow white with fear
at what may be in wait;
Then burst the gale on spar and sail,
the shocked Eliza reeled,
And shuddered like something of life
that sees its doom revealed.

With riven sail before the gale
the staunch Eliza flew,
With sturdy hearts who done their part
of her courageous crew;
As fiercely raged the storm-swept waves
and darker growed the skies,
But none can tell just what befell
that crew of gallant b'ys.

Right valiantly they fought the sea
for they were heroes bred,
Where sea-bred fisher sires reside,
St Mary's Riverhead;
Dark night and storm enwrap her form,
the warning billows roar,
The hurricane her timbers strain,
she'll sail in pride no more.

Death's angel creeps along the deep,
the strength of man is vain,
God's will be done, my son, my son,
I will never see again!
Then it was learned in Riverhead
the schooner had set sail
All deeply laden fore and aft
and ran into the gale.

Long hours of deep anxiety
were by a maiden spent,
Whose fingers trembled on the keys
of every message sent,
Asking for tidings of her beloved
who with her two brothers share
The terrors of that night of woe,
that night that breathes despair.

Deep shadows now o'ershade her brow,
Cape Race's message tells:
"A ship, dismasted, drifts to sea
before tempestuous swells."
And all around her office howl,
e'en at this very door,
The shrieking wind cries through the night:
"You will see them nevermore!"

And sad to say 'tis told today
throughout our little town,
That not one word was ever heard
where this good ship went down;
Their light seen on the darkening main
by Captain Welsh and crew,
From off the trasher's storm-swept deck
is all we ever knew.

Gay Captain Jim we'll think of him oft
when the neighbours meet,
When tales of bravery are told
of many a fishing fleet,
But one will grieve with an aching heart,
his promised bride to be.
"Oh cruel deep, why will you keep my love,
my love from me?

Our Peter sang of things that breathed
along the sunny strand,
When seaward winds sweep soothing here
to bless our Newfoundland,
But we will hear his voice no more
nor know his welcome tread
At homes that loved his presence
in St Mary's Riverhead.

The glad-eyed b'y young Jack Ahearn,
'twas his first summer's cruise,
We did entreat to keep him home,
words proved of little use;
Our son by ocean's mighty song
is lulled to infant sleep,
And mysteries fly as the years go by
into our spirits deep.

Still like the sea-wind's wizard voice
is to our childhood mind,
That something strange lay hid within
that we must wait to find;
God help those waiting ones at home
who mourn their sailors dead,
God's hand come down upon our town,
St Mary's Riverhead!

####.... Original Newfoundland song, written (per oral history) by a school teacher whose fiancée was the Eliza's captain ....####
Collected in 1961 by Kenneth Peacock from Patrick J Rossiter [1900-1980] of Fermeuse, NL, and published in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Vol 3, pp.944-947, by The National Museum of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved. An abbreviated version was recorded on Peacock's album Songs and Ballads of Newfoundland, Folkways FG 3505 (1956) LP, trk#A.06.

A very similar variant was collected in 1951 from Mrs Thomas (Anastasia Ryan) Ghaney [1883-1959] also of Fermeuse, NL, and published in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada, ©2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

According to Shipwrecks Of Newfoundland And Labrador, (Frank Galgay and Michael McCarthy, Vol IV Creative Book Publishing, St John's, 1997) the Eliza was lost at sea on December 18, 1925. Likewise, according to Frank Martin (When Was That In Newfoundland History) the schooner Eliza was reported lost at Riverhead, St Mary's Bay, on Dec 18, 1925.

See more NL shipwreck songs.


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