The Bird Rocks (Kenneth Peacock)

'Twas winter down the icy Gulf,
The Gulf St Lawrence wide,
Where stands a light-house on a rock,
The sailor's friend and guide.

The keeper and his wife and son,
A helper too had he,
These four alone lived on that rock,
Surrounded by the sea.

One day these three brave men went out,
As they were wont to do,
On rugged sheets of frozen ice
To capture seals a few.

But as they lingered o'er the seals,
At length they failed to see
The wind had veered from south to east
And drove the ice to sea.

The sheets of ice on which they stood
Were drifted all unseen,
And now they could not gain that rock
For water flowed between.

They wove their hands in wild despair
And did for rescue pray,
But not a soul was near to help
That freezing winter's day.

Alone within the light-house tower,
The keeper's wife did see
Her loved ones carried to their doom
Toward the open sea.

Four months she lived on that lone rock,
Grief-stricken yet so brave,
For nightly gleamed her beacon light
Across the gloomy wave.

At length the welcome spring appeared,
A steamship came around,
And when the skipper climbed the rock
But one brave soul he found.

She told her tale in plaintive tones,
The skipper's eyes grew dim,
He turned his eyes toward the sea,
His heart was touched within.

"What did you do," at last he said,
"When all was snatched from you?"
"I kept my light still burning, sir,
'Twas all that I could do."

Oh may we, like this faithful soul
In sorrow's darkest night,
Still do our duty for our God,
And show the world our light!

Then let us keep our lights aglow
Till all life's storm is o'er,
And then we'll shine as God's fair jewels
On Eden's peaceful shore.

####.... Author unknown. Traditional Newfoundland song ....####

Collected in 1958 by Kenneth Peacock from Mrs Thomas (Annie) Walters [1896-1986] of Rocky Harbour, NL, and published in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports , Vol 3, pp.903-904, by the National Museum of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

Kenneth Peacock noted that Mrs Walters said the Bird Rocks are in the Gulf of St Lawrence near the Magdalen Islands. She sang this song nearly thirty years earlier for Elisabeth Greenleaf, who included it in her Ballads And Sea Songs Of Newfoundland by Elisabeth Bristol Greenleaf and Grace Yarrow Mansfield (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1933; Folklore Associates, Hatboro, PA, 1968). Since Mrs Walters and her mother before her seemed to be the only sources for this ballad, Peacock claimed it until further notice as a native Newfoundland song.

The following is an excerpt from: The Cursed Lightstation of Rocher aux Oiseaux (Bird Rocks) - A Malicious Prank of Nature, by Jeremy D'Entremont

"The hunting of harp seals has been a major industry in the Magdalens since the early 1800s, and it was no different at Rocher aux Oiseaux (Bird Rocks). In early April 1880, Keeper Whalen, his son, and an assistant keeper went seal hunting, leaving the keeper's wife alone at the light station. A storm blew in suddenly, and the three men were set adrift on the ice. After what must have been a sleepless night, Keeper Whalen's wife was greeted the next day by the assistant keeper, Thomas Thivierge, who had somehow returned to the Rock despite being nearly frozen to death. Thivierge, who eventually recovered, brought the sad news that the woman's husband and son had died in the storm the night before. It wasn't long after this that the government first installed a submarine cable providing telegraph communication with Grosse-Isle, also in the Magdalens Archipelago.

"In March 1897, Arsène Turbide, Charles Turbide and Damien Cormier went seal hunting, and an almost exact replay of the 1880 tragedy played itself out. A storm took the trio by surprise, and Charles Turbide and Cormier died during the night. Arsène Turbide miraculously walked across 60 miles of ice over three days and three nights, arriving nearly dead at Baie Saint Laurent, Cape Breton. It was said that as he was taken to a hospital, Turbide expressed deep concern for the wife of Damien Cormier, who was alone at the Rock. Turbide died a short time later, but a government vessel that cut through the ice rescued Cormier's wife.

Thanks to Jake Wade for bringing this copyrighted ©2004 article from Lighthouse Digest® to our attention. ~ GEST


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