The Wreck Of The Semmity (Kenneth Peacock)
(The Old Smite) (Old Spike) (Sennity)

I was in the bay last winter,
I'm going to explain,
All in a Yankee vessel,
the Semmity was her name;
And she being deeply loaded
and ready for to go
With a load of frozen herring,
she looked beautiful, you know.

We steered our course across the Gulf
as long as she could run,
The clouds piled up before us
and soon o'ercast the sun;
The sky it did prove angry
and seemed to throw a storm,
'Twas all the signs of a breeze of wind
before daylight next morn.

We hugged her under the western shore
for twelve long hours or more,
The wind it veered from the nor'-nor'east
and bitterly it did roar;
It veered around from the nor'-nor'west
and blowed a heavy gale,
Every man was to his station
for to close-reef the sail.

We tried her under double reefs
but nothing could she do,
Our captain he gave orders
to heave the vessel to;
Whilst in under three-reef foresail
we let the Semmity lie,
To take her chance to break the sea
or let her live or die.

In the first watch of the Semmity
'bout ten o'clock that night,
The seaman on the lookout
could just discern the light;
Our captain he's just gone below
to get ready to turn in,
He came on deck and this did say:
"Heave your vessel by the wind."

He then picked up his sheeting short
and pricked the vessel off,
He saw by his good reckoning
how many miles she was off.
"That must have been a steamer's light
that fellow had seen then,
We'll run her for another hour
so swing her off again."

'Twas about fifteen minutes
just after the words were said,
The seaman on the lookout cried,
"Breakers right ahead!"
We saw she could not clear it
and every man stood by,
'Twas on a sunken rocky reef
he runned her high and dry.

The first wave that rolled down on us
I tell you he looked blue,
And all the crew like monkeys
up ratlines they flew;
The second one rolled down on us,
to the broad-beam she gave way,
She parted in the midships
and her spars fell in the sea.
There was six in the main riggin',
and four in her for'ard,
They all got sove exceptin' one
by the mercy of the Lord.

####.... Author unknown. Traditional Newfoundland ballad ....####
Collected in 1958 by Kenneth Peacock from Levi Everett Bennett [b.1899] of St Paul's, NL, and published in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Vol 3, pp.983-984, by the National Museum of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

Kenneth Peacock noted that another variant sung by George William Decker [1878-1962] of Rocky Harbour, NL, gives the ship's name as Sennity. Mr Decker said this native ballad was composed in Ramea on Newfoundland's south coast. His tune and text are very similar to Mr Bennett's with the exception of the second verse which follows below:

We went out to St Pierre
and we waited for a time,
Up sprung a big sou'easter
which hardly crossed our mind;
The sky it did look angry
and threatened to be a storm,
And every sign a breeze of wind
before daylight next morn.

A variant by Mrs Wallace (Amelia J) Kinslow [1903-1985] of Isle aux Morts, NL, calls the vessel by a completely different name, Old Spike.

Another variant was collected in 1983 from Linda Slade of St John's, NL, by Genevieve Lehr and Anita Best and published as #85, The Old Smite, in Come And I Will Sing You: A Newfoundland Songbook, pp.150-151, edited by Genevieve Lehr (University of Toronto Press © 1985/2003).

Genevieve Lehr noted that on January 21, 1897, the Yosemite with Captain John McKinnon in command, was homeward bound to Gloucester from Placentia Bay, NL, when she struck a reef and ran ashore on Ram Island off the Nova Scotian coast.

See more Lehr and Best songs.

See more NL shipwreck songs.


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