The Wreck Of The St John (MacEdward Leach)

See also: The Union From St John's (Best/Morgan)

And also: The Union From St John's (Peacock)

Ye landsmen and ye seamen bold,
Come listen to what I write,
Whilst crossing over those stormy seas,
I always took delight.

The wind came from the east-southeast,
And bitterly did blow,
The night was as dark as a dungeon,
It was on a lee shore we came.

Our captain stood and gave orders,
His orders to obey,
"Go forward, my boys, without delay,
Your fores'l to slack away."

Our captain stood and gave orders,
For us 'twas to be done,
'Twas under a two-reef fores'l,
Fifteen leagues to sea we run.

Early the next morning,
We sighted a desperate shore,
A vessel on her beam ends lay,
Five leagues from Mt. Bedford run.

Now, we sailed all around her,
Passing all remarks we could,
Two pumps before the mainmast,
And the roundhouse painted red.

The tower worked o'er the roundhouse,
And that proved very rare,
With a gooseneck on the end of it,
Light, as each man could stare.

We boarded her next morning,
We boarded her in haste,
There was death in every station,
And staring us in the face.

There was two lives frozen to the pond,
Five more in her cabin besides,
Like good seamen they done their work,
Like noble seamen died.

Some of our crew passed this remark,
"There is other dooms, I know,
The fore-course was cut from the fore-yardarm
To swivel on her bow."

And now we're on the shore, brave boys,
So lower your glass with rum,
The widows must mourn for their husbands,
And the mothers for darling sons.

####.... Author unknown ....####
This variant was collected in 1951 from Francis M (Frank) O'Brien [1917-1998] of Trepassey, NL, and published in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada © 2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA). It was mistitled after The Wreck Of The St John , a brig, which occurred in 1849 off the coast of Massachusetts near Cohassett with the loss of 99 lives, mostly Irish immigrants.

A variant was collected in 1958 from Arthur Nicolle [1900-1971] of Rocky Harbour, NL, by Kenneth Peacock and published as The Union From St John's in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Vol 3, pp.978-980, by The National Museum Of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

Two other variants were collected, one in 1976 from Moses (Uncle Mose) Harris [1911-?] of Lethbridge, Bonavista Bay, NL, and one in 1980 from Phillip Pius Power, Sr [1912-1993] of South East Bight, NL, by Genevieve Lehr and Anita Best and published as #112, The Wreck Of The Union in Come And I Will Sing You: A Newfoundland Songbook, pp.190-193, edited by Genevieve Lehr (University of Toronto Press © 1985/2003).

Genevieve Lehr noted that an American broadside ballad The Wreck Of The Brig Union was discovered by Fannie Hardy Eckstrom and Mary Winslow Smyth and printed in their book Minstrelsy of Maine in 1927. According to them, the song was written in the early 1800s. However, the ship could possibly have been from Newfoundland since there were two (and possibly more) wrecks recorded of ships named the Union from Newfoundland around that time. Lehr also noted that Mr Power's version is the closest of the two to the original broadside, which has Mount Desert's Rock instead of Mount Bernard Rock. Mr Power learned the song from his Uncle Dave Brewer when he was but a child of nine or ten. 'When Uncle Dave got a drop in, this was the song he would always sing ... it was the only one he had.'

GEST notes that the Moses Harris variant dates the gale as 18 November, the same as Arthur Nicolle's variant, while Pius Power, Sr dates the gale as 14 January. The date does not correspond, so whether or not it pertains to the Union in this song is questionable, but a page-long column in an old St John's newspaper, entitled Memorable Springs and Other Information, Seal Fishery, has the following to say concerning the year 1833: "Celebrated for the loss of the schooner Union, Capt Jno Delaney, with a picked crew of 28 men from Trinity; built by Charles Newhook of New Harbour for Jno B Garland, merchant; capsized while under full sail. April 23rd, the schooners Active and Avon took some of her seals and towed her for 2 days, but had to let her go."
Source: Monograph entitled Newhook Master Shipbuilders by N C Crewe, Research Officer, Newfoundland Archives, St John's, 28 May 1965.


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