Gigantic (MacEdward Leach)

It been on October the twenty-second,
as you may understand,
They were six of us made up our minds
to sail from Newfoundland;
With a load of codfish stowed in bulk,
rough weather we did find,
As we left Harbour Buffet,
leaving Newfoundland behind.

Oh, we left Harbour Buffet,
I'm sure all hands inclined,
The wind sprung up about east-nor'east,
we had a splendid time;
In under a foresail and two jibs,
Red Island we did round,
Sailing out through Placentia Bay,
for Oporto we were bound.

On eight o'clock on that same night
the light it did appear,
Cape St Mary's on abeam
sou'east from us did bear;
We ran her out around the Cape,
our sails and sheets we bound,
We steered across about south by east
expecting to bear down.

On three o'clock next morning,
Cape Pine it did appear,
The light it bore about east-nor'east
as south by east we steered;
We sot our staysails to the masts
and that was done quite rare,
We changed the watch at six o'clock,
the time she struck four bells.

We sot the log at ten o'clock
and slacked it back astern,
And ran her off across the sea
till early the next morn;
We pulled the log at eleven o'clock,
the course was giving ten,
Eighty-one was on the log,
we swung her off again.

Sou'east by east was our main course,
But south by east she lay;
Owing to the weather,
and according to the sea,
Our captain says to haul her in,
sou'east by east to bear.

Running off sou'east by east,
the gale it did come on,
Our captain says all hands on deck,
and that before too long;
We low'rd our staysails from the mast,
four of our jolly crew,
Reefed foresail and reefed stormsail,
we hove our vessel to.

It been on October the twenty-fourth,
as you may understand,
We shortened sail and hove 'er to
three-hundred miles from land;
That night was dark and dreary,
a hard time we did spend,
A sea rolled down on our lifeboat,
split her from end to end.

The twenty-eight hours that we lay
to the west of Gulf stream,
The wind and sea it was sent forth,
the like was seldom seen;
Four sailor b'ys to stand on deck
that night and livelong day,
At six o'clock on Saturday
we ran before the sea.

From eight to twelve we did go 'round,
the lanyards we would view,
That is a job that must be done
when the vessel is hove to;
To serve our lives and keep her pumped,
as you may understand,
Two hundred jobs we did in an hour,
far off from Newfoundland.

On the last day of October
we hove her to again,
In under a two-reefed foresail,
a hard old time to spend;
With a knot all in our stormsail,
and a reef put in likewise,
To stand our watch that livelong night
with salt-water in our eyes.

From eight to twelve our watch came on,
as you may plainly see,
It would join your tears to weep that night
to look upon the sea;
To watch those seas were roaring down,
we could do nothing more,
We hove her to on Thursday morn
far off from foreign shore.

It been on the sixteenth morning
there were no signs of land,
Cheer up, my boys, wash out your eyes,
and on the deck we'll stand;
A sharp lookout for submarines,
and a perfect course to steer,
At six that night we saw a light,
Oporto did appear.

Now the storm is over,
it's coming to an end,
We'll never forget the thirty-first,
the hard time we did spend;
Down in the North Atlantic,
those raging storms to fight,
And us poor b'ys we'll never forget,
the sea bore down that night.

Next morning we lay by the cabin,
a whistle we did hear,
We took the tug, made fast our line,
for land sure we did steer;
The twenty-three days were out at sea,
out on the ocean deep,
We pulled her sails and washed her down
to have a nap of sleep.

'Twas five mile up the river,
our load we did discharge,
Half of our fish was small,
and the other half was large;
We took on board our load of salt,
all on Santonio's strand,
And in good health, us sailors were
bound home for Newfoundland.

Six men composed the schooner's crew,
their names I will pen down,
There's Captain Thomas Edwin
from Catalina town;
William Edgecome was our mate,
a smart young youth command,
William Best from Placentia Bay,
hailing from Meerasheen.

Wilson Hollet was our cook,
from Buffet do belong,
And Thomas Whiffen from the Rams,
I'll have him in my song;
William Barry from Port Royal
made up the vessel's crew,
They shipped aboard Gigantic
to cross the ocean blue.

####.... Variant of an original ballad by William Best of Merasheen, NL, 1917 .... ####

This variant was collected in 1951 from John James of Trepassey, NL, and published in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada, ©2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

A variant was collected by Genevieve Lehr and Anita Best in 1978 from Phillip Pius Power, Sr [1912-1993] of South East Bight, NL, and published as #42, The Gigantic, in Come And I Will Sing You: A Newfoundland Songbook, pp.73-74, edited by Genevieve Lehr (University of Toronto Press ©1985/2003).

Anita Best noted that The Gigantic was composed in 1917 by William Best of Merasheen, her father's uncle. Mrs Mary Best, her father's aunt, gave her a copy of her brother's song. Anita Best had heard it sung several times, but never in its entirety. It is interesting to note, Anita Best continued, that the song underwent various textual changes as it was passed from singer to singer, community to community. It was generally a "man's" song, sung at gatherings of men drinking a drop of homebrew on a winter's evening.

See more Lehr and Best songs.

¹ Oporto is the second largest city in Portugal, located at the mouth of the Douro River, Historically, the city has always been a key port on the Atlantic Ocean and is well known today for its shipments of Port wine made from grapes grown to the east, along the banks of the Douro.
² GEST notes that the word 'sot' appears several times in the Dictionary Of Newfoundland English, usually within quotations which serve as examples of usage for defined words. The word itself is obscurely defined on page two of the Introduction to the Dictionary. It is used in this song as the past tense of the verb 'set' spoken with a Newfoundland dialect.


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