The Loss Of The John Harvey (Kenneth Peacock)

See also: The Wreck Of The John Harvey (Dorymen)

Oh, ye landsmen who live on the shore,
how can you understand
The perils of the ocean
when you are safe on land?
There's many brave young sailor lads
for adventure far do roam,
Give up the struggle for their lives
far from their native home.

The wind it blew a hurricane,
the worst one of the year,
The John Harvey sailed from Gloucester
for the island of St Pierre
With a load of general cargo
when loud the winds did roar,
And on the tenth of January
our vessel went ashore.

Our skipper he gave orders
the vessel to dismast,
The boats were frozen to her deck,
the sea swept fore and aft;
Said Captain Kearley to his men,
"My b'ys it is no use,
I fear that we are doomed to die
on the shores of Gabarus."

Then young John Keeping a line he took
and tied it around his waist,
Said he, "We'll swim for the nearest shore
the icy foam to face."
Oh, bitterly cold was that winter's night
when the sea rose mountains high,
All tossed and battered by the wind
was that brave Belleoram b'y.

The wind it blew a hurricane,
the night was bitterly cold,
It would chill the heart of a sailor lad,
a hero young and bold,
All tossed and battered by the wind
when at last the shore did reach,
And with his badly frozen hands
made a line fast to the beach.

The crew of the Harvey got ashore,
there were six of them all told,
The loss of the John Harvey
and a Keeping b'y so bold,
But Keeping and his brave young Foote,
by exhaustion overcome,
Died on the shores of Gabarus
far from their native home.

The survivors walked to some fishing shacks
that stood upon the shore,
Much hampered by their heavy boots
and the oilskins that they wore;
They had no match to light a fire,
how awful was their plight
As they struggled for existence
on that cold and wintry night.

Help soon came from Gabarus,
to them the tale was told
Of the loss of the John Harvey
and a Keeping b'y so bold;
God's blessing rest upon them,
they did all they could do
To comfort and aid the survivors
of the Harvey's shipwrecked crew.

Captain Kearley and his hardy b'ys
formed a sad disheartened band,
With the bodies of those comrades
went back to Newfoundland;
As they followed the casket to the train
the tears fell from their eyes
When they thought of the noble actions
of those brave Belleoram b'ys.

Good people of Belleoram
with you I'll sympathize,
Don't fret nor mourn for those brave b'ys
for heaven was their prize;
And all ye brave young sailor lads
think of those noble youths
Who died far away from their native home
on the shores of Gabarus.

####.... Author unknown. Traditional Newfoundland song ....####
Collected in 1959 by Kenneth Peacock from Kenneth Pink [1938-?] of Rose Blanche, NL, and published in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Vol 3, pp.950-951, by the National Museum of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

Kenneth Peacock noted this song is another example of the numerous native shipwreck ballads from the south coast of Newfoundland. Small boats like the John Harvey often get contracts to carry general cargo from Canadian and American ports to places in Newfoundland and the offshore French islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon. Belleoram is in Fortune Bay on Newfoundland's south coast, and Gabarus is on the east coast of Cape Breton. "Keeping" is a common south coast name.

Stella Mann in her Web page, Gull Cove, Cape Breton - Remembered documents that the loss of the John Harvey on January 10, 1912, is well remembered there because of a lengthy poem written about this disaster. The village school children memorized this poem and not only recited it, but sang it after it was set to a well-known tune. She also fills in some missing details such as the schooner master's full name was Captain George Kearley; the John Harvey went ashore at Winging Point, inside Guion Island on the outside beaches of Gabarus; and the hero John Keeping was fifteen years old.

A variant was recorded by the Dorymen as The Wreck Of The John Harvey (A Musical Catch, 1973 LP, trk#3, Marathon Records, Toronto, ON); (Tiny Red Light, 1980 LP, trk#5, The Great Canadian Music Company, Toronto, ON); and (Tiny Red Light, 1999 CD, trk#3, Heritage Music, Scarborough, ON); and (Tiny Red Light, 2003 CD, trk#3, Heritage Music, New Market, ON).

See more Dorymen songs.

See more NL shipwreck songs.


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