The Loss Of The Bruce (Kenneth Peacock)

The Bruce was bound for Louisburg
the night being dark and drear,
When Captain Drake stood on the bridge
a man who knew no fear;
Ten knots an hour she bore along
against the wind and tide,
The white-cap waves they madly dashed
against this proud ship's side.

The helmsman with heart and cheer
so brave and strong as steel,
Stood like a sentinel at his post
beside the Bruce's wheel;
The passengers were all below
and all were of good cheer,
They never dreamt that danger grave
was lurking very near.

But accidents will happen quick
as you will understand,
There's no occasion to be safe
upon the sea or land;
No gentle warning to prepare,
no tender call so brief,
The Bruce with mail and passengers
she ran upon a reef.

And then a great confusion
aboard the ship held sway,
The helpless female passengers
could only kneel and pray;
Their weeping children clinging
close beside their mother's form,
It was a pitiful picture there
that night with sea and storm.

The boats were ordered to be lowered,
and the volunteers to aid
Were all true Newfoundlanders,
they never were afraid;
Were all true Newfoundlanders,
their hearts were kind and true,
When danger stares you in the face
they'll risk their lives for you.

And by the Bruce's noble crew
the passengers were saved,
Except death to one poor fellow,
I'll agree that he was brave;
Young Pike all from his native home
intended for to roam,
Was snatched all from the strangers' hands
and buried in the foam.

Alas unto his wife and friends
they're sad as we all know,
Alas great God who dwells above
from Whom all blessings flow;
He gives the power of request
all with His mighty hand,
And places him with the fishermen
of dear old Newfoundland.

####.... Author unknown. Traditonal Newfoundland song ....####
Collected in 1960 by Kenneth Peacock from James (Jim) W Dalton [1909-1985] of Codroy, NL, and published in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Vol 3, pp.939-940, by the National Museum of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

Kenneth Peacock noted that Jim Dalton learned this native ballad from his mother, who told him the disaster took place about 1910 on a reef five or six miles out of Louisburg, NS. The exact date and location of the shipwreck remain to be authenticated. (See below)

From the Northern Shipwrecks Database and Shipwrecks Of Nova Scotia:
The SS Bruce was a 237 foot long steel passenger steam ferry owned by the Trans-Newfoundland Railway. She was built in Glasgow, Scotland in 1897, and was going from Port aux Basques, NL, to Louisburg, NS with 123 passengers when driven on rocks of Portnova Reef by ice in Main-à-Dieu Passage southwest of Scatarie Island off Cape Breton Point, NS, on March 24, 1911, with a reported loss of two crewmen.

Below is an eyewitness account by Sidney Bond Young [1894-1966] of Twillingate, NL, excerpted from Not Too Long Ago... Seniors Tell Their Stories by Garry Cranford [b.1950] Writer/Researcher, published by The Seniors Resource Centre, St John's, NL, ©1999:
"We had to go by motorboat from Twillingate to Lewisporte, then by train to Port aux Basques. We left there at 11:30 P.M. on a steamer, SS Bruce, March 23, to cross the Gulf of St Lawrence for North Sydney. About 4:30 A.M., March 24, the steamer ran aground on the Scatteri [sic] Island, Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, eighteen miles from where we were supposed to go. There was a high sea rolling and we had been going through broken ice all night. When the steamer hit the solid rock, all the lights went out and the passengers were thrown out of their beds. The steamer fell over on its side, exposed to the Gulf. This allowed every sea to go over her. The steamer had four lifeboats. Two of these were smashed to pieces and two passengers were drowned in front of me. The captain gave orders that women and children were to be taken off first. Due to the high sea, the other two lifeboats had to row four miles to land the passengers, and get word to the mainland for them to send a rescue boat. Due to the fact that it took so long for a boat to row eight miles, four each way, a rescue steamer arrived before all the passengers had been taken off. It was 4 P.M. when the steamer from Louisbourg came to take the rest of us off. We were given dry clothing and lots to eat, then taken to North Sydney where I took the train for Toronto. I arrived in Toronto March 25, 1911."

NOTE: Scatarie Island is approximately 10 km (6.2 mi) long and lies in a west-to-east orientation about 3 km (1.9 mi) east of Main-à-Dieu Harbour across the Main-à-Dieu Passage. It is the second largest island off the coast of Cape Breton (Isle Madame is considerably larger). Lighthouses have been established at both ends of the island: the westernmost is known as the Main-à-Dieu Lighthouse and the easternmost as Scatarie Lighthouse. Scatarie Island, several of the adjacent islets, and the waters for a statute mile off shore now form the Scatarie Island Provincial Wildlife Management Area. It is therefore no longer inhabited, though some buildings from the former community remain standing.

See more NL shipwreck songs.


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