Virgin Mary's Bank (MacEdward Leach)
(The Virgin On The Strand)

Now, the evening star shone beauteous bright
all on that fading day,
When to a lone and silent beach
the Virgin came to pray;
The hills and dales shone clearly,
the moonlight mellow fall,
On the banks of green where Mary knelt
shone the brightest of them all.

Slow moving o'er the waters,
a gallant barque appeared,
Her joyful crew looked from the deck
as to the land she steered;
Slow moving o'er those sheltered heavens,
she floated like a swan,
With her wings of snow the waves below
her pride and beauty shone.

Now her captain spied a lady
as he stood upon the bow,
He marked the whiteness of her robe
and the radiance of her brow;
Her arms were folded most graciously
all on her stainless breast,
And her eyes were cast to him,
and now to Him her soul loved best.

He showed her to his sailors
who hailed her with a cheer,
It was on that kneeling virgin
they gazed with laugh and jeer;
They madly swore a form so fair
they never had seen before,
And they cursed that fainting, lagging breeze
that kept them from the shore.

The ocean from its bosom
showed up its moonlight sheen,
And up it's angry billows rose
to vindicate our Queen;
The clouds came o'er the heavens
and the darkness o'er the land,
That scoffing crew beheld no more
that lady on the strand.

Now burst the pealing thunder
and the lightning flashed about,
Contending with those angry waves
the tempest gave a shout;
Our vessel from a mountain wave
came down with thundering shock,
Her timbers flew like scattered sprays
on Inchydoney's rock.

A bright and purple dawning
shone out a night of gore,
Where many a mangled corpse was seen
on Inchydoney's shore;
And to this day the fishermen showed
where those scoffers sank,
And still they called this hill of green
the Virgin Mary's Bank.

####.... Variant of an Irish ballad by J J Callanan [1795-1828] published in The Book Of Irish Ballads by James Duffy, Dublin, 1869, and edited by Denis Florence Mac Carthy [1817-1882] ....####
Collected in 1950 from James (Jim) Rice [1879-1958] of Cape Broyle, NL, and published in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada, ©2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

Another variant was collected in 1951 by MacEdward Leach from F Leonard (Leo) Molloy [1903-1989] of St Shott's NL, and it was also published in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada, ©2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

A variant was collected in 1978 by Genevieve Lehr and Anita Best from Phillip Pius Power, Sr [1912-1993] of South East Bight, NL, and published as #115, The Virgin On The Strand in Come And I Will Sing You: A Newfoundland Songbook, pp.196-197, edited by Genevieve Lehr (University of Toronto Press, 1985/2003).

Genevieve Lehr noted that under the title The Virgin Mary's Bank, this song appeared in Irish Com-All-Ye's (1901) by Manus O'Conor. In the table of contents, O'Conor lists the author of the song as J J Callanan. Lehr also noted that Inchidony's Rock is the place-name given in the Irish version. Mr Power learned the song from Mr Bill Flynn of Petit Forte, NL.

See more Lehr and Best songs.

¹ From the foot of Inchydoney Island, an elevated tract of sand runs out into the sea, and terminates in a high green bank, which forms pleasing contrast with the little desert behind it, and the black solitary rock immediately under. Tradition tells that the Virgin came one night to this hillock to pray, and was discovered kneeling there by the crew of a vessel that was coming to anchor near the place. They laughed at her piety, and made some merry and unbecoming remarks on her beauty, upon which a storm arose and destroyed the ship and her crew. Since that time no vessel has been known to anchor near it. ~ J J Callanan
² Inchydoney Island is located on the southwest coast of Ireland, thirty miles from the city of Cork.


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