Charming Sally Greer (Kenneth Peacock)
MIDI, video

See also: Sally Greer (Barry Taylor)
#2560: YouTube video by Padraig Grimes
©2018 ~ Used with permission ~


Good people all both old and young,
my age is twenty-three,
My parents turned me from
their door unto Americay;
All from that verdant Ireland
where my first breath I drew,
They forced me to Americay
my fortune to pursue.

The reason why they transported me
I intend to let you hear,
'Twas because I would not break my vow
from the girl I love so dear;
'Twas because I would not break my vow
from the girl I love so dear,
That girl I love so tenderly,
my charming Sally Greer.

'Twas on board the Rose of Aberdeen
from Belfast we bore down,
With eighteen emigrants on board,
'twas to Quebec we were bound;
We were long time on the ocean
but no danger did I fear,
For my heart was with the girl I left,
my charming Sally Greer;

When the seas are all in motion
they keep rolling to and fro,
Our vessel struck against a rock
and in pieces she did go;
And 'twas out of eighteen emigrants
only fourteen reached the shore,
And the other four souls to the bottom went
and they never were seen no more.

Then 'twas on the island of St Paul's
for twelve days we did lie,
Our bedding was the cold, cold ground,
our covering was the sky;
And our clothes and money we had with us
were lost on board the wreck,
We were a sight for to behold
when we landed in Quebec.

So now I'm safe in Quebec town,
got friends and money there,
But still I long for the land I love
and the girl who is so fair;
I'm in hopes to be back in old Ireland
before the end of the year,
Then I will roll in the arms
of my charming Sally Greer.

####.... Author unknown. Variant of a native American ballad, Sally Greer [Laws D39d] Native American Balladry, p.264, G Malcolm Laws (1964/1950) ....####

Collected in 1960 by Kenneth Peacock from Mrs Mary Ann Galpin [1872-1962] of Codroy, NL, and published in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Vol 2, pp.358-359, by the National Museum of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

A variant was also collected by Barry Taylor and published on-line as Sally Greer in Barry Taylor's The Great Canadian Tunebook.

Kenneth Peacock noted that this is one of a group of Irish immigrant ballads which tell of hardships and personal tragedies during the mass migrations from Ireland in the 19th-century. The island of St Paul's (verse 5) is in the Gulf of St Lawrence just north of Cape Breton. One sees it when crossing on the ferry to Newfoundland.

Two other versions of the song have been collected in Canada, one by Helen Creighton [1899-1989] in Nova Scotia and the other by Edith Fowke in Ontario. Both give dates for the tragedy: the Nova Scotia variant says 1843, and the Ontario one 1833. This Newfoundland variant is somewhat less factual, concentrating more on the personal relationships of the two lovers.

Since names and dates vary so much among the known variants, GEST located the following notes which agree with the ship's name in one of the other variants and establishes the date of the wreck as September 14, 1823.

Note¹: From The Ships List:

"Melancholy Wreck of the Brig Monarch, of Aberdeen, Alexander Martin, Master, on St Paul's Island, in the Gulph of St Lawrence.

"On Sunday morning, the 14th Sept. At 3 A.M. the Monarch, bound from Newry to Quebec, in a thick fog and wind southerly, struck on a sunken rock on the south-east side of the Island of St Paul; but fortunately for the crew and passengers, she beat over it and came in contact with the cliffs of the Island. There were thirty persons on board when the vessel struck, twelve of them seamen, the others passengers, five of whom were drowned and many of the remainder dreadfully wounded by the rocks. The captain and crew, who were particularly active in their endeavours to save the lives of the passengers, fortunately sustained but trifling injury. The method they adopted to get on shore was by cutting away the masts which fell on the rocks, and by the greatest exertions twenty-five of their number succeeded in getting to land. The vessel held together but ten minutes after they were landed, and the whole of the passengers and part of the crew being at rest when she struck, they were consequently cast nak'd on shore. In this deplorable state they remained three days on the Island without any thing to subsist on but a few pieces of pork which fortunately floated on shore from the wreck, and which they were obliged to eat raw, some clothing which also come on shore assisted in part to cover their nak'dness. Luckily on the morning of the 17th, the ship Generous Planter, of London, from this port, hove in sight off the Island, and perceiving their signals, succeeded in bringing them all on board, and rescuing them from their perilous situation. The Captain (Woodford) afforded them every assistance which their distresses required and is deserving the greatest praise for his humane and gentlemanly conduct towards them. The captain, mate, and one passenger, went home in the Generous Planter; the remainder have arrived here in the Sir James Kempt, to which vessel they were transferred by Capt Woodford. Capt Stewart of the Sir James Kempt rendered them every assistance which his means would allow, and is equally entitled to their gratitude.

"Two of the passengers were preachers, one of the Presbyterian, and the other of the Methodist persuasion.

"A subscription list is open at the Exchange for the relief of the surviving sufferers by the above wreck, who from the loss of their all, may justly be considered fit objects for public commiseration and beneficence."

Note²: From 19th-Century Royal Navy Shipping Movements dated 16 Oct 1823:

"Oct 14 - Arrived the Generous Planter, Woodward,, from Quebec. On the 17th ult. [last month] observed some people on St Paul's Island, in the entrance of the Gulf of St Lawrence, and on sending a boat found twenty-five poor creatures, among them several women and children, who had been 3 days on that island without clothes or shelter, or other sustenance than the berries that grow on the place. Captain Woodward took them on board of his ship and administered every assistance in his power. It appears that, on the 14th; the brig Monarch, of Aberdeen, Alexander Martin, master, bound to Quebec, ran against this island in a thick fog, and sunk in deep water; the boat was got out in time to save twenty-five, but we lament to say that five passengers were drowned. On the 17th fell in with the Sir James Kempt, from Cork to Quebec, which received the twenty-five shipwrecked persons on board to take them to their original destination. On the 21st, the Loyalist from Quebec, bound to Newcastle, took the master, mate, and a boy, of the Monarch, to convey them home.

"Aberdeen 18 Oct (as reported on 23 Oct) The passengers who were drowned when the Monarch, of Aberdeen, was lost on St Paul's island, were Mrs Fair, and her youngest son, Mrs M'Lean, Barney Smith, and a little girl, name unknown."

The video above features an excellent live performance by Padraig Grimes of Castlebar, IE ©2018. All Rights Reserved.

See more songs by Padraig Grimes.

See more songs about NL shipwrecks.


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