The Wreck Of The Tolesby (James Murphy)

See also: The Wreck Of The Tolsby (Leach)
(The Loss Of The Tolesby)

You daring sons of Newfoundland,
come listen unto me,
And I will sing of dangers
that are to be met at sea;
I will tell you of the Tolesby
that came to grief one day,
At a place called Little Seal Cove,
up in Trepassey Bay.

She left Galveston, Texas,
in December, safe and sound,
With a heavy load of cotton,
to Havre, France was bound;
And her voyage was uneventful
till her course we tried to trace,
All in a blinding snow storm,
when making for Cape Race.

'Twas on Monday afternoon,
this storm it did appear,
On the thirteenth day of January,
to you I will make clear;
When suddenly she struck the rocks
where ships have struck before,
Some distance from Fresh Water Point,
near Little Seal Cove Shore.

With twenty-seven souls on board,
which did comprise the crew,
They lowered the boats when Captain Payne
gave orders for to do;
Like matchwood they were smashed in twain
by heavy seas on knocks,
Which those frail craft encountered
by striking on the rocks.

They jumped into the seething surf
and swam towards the beach,
Which, thanks unto kind Providence
they all did safely reach;
And with the wreckage from the ship
they lit, amidst the storm,
A fire upon the rocky beach,
that night, to keep them warm.

They won't forget that awful night
when they had reached the shore,
With a frowning cliff around them,
and the ocean's maddened roar;
With frozen sleet beneath their feet,
and facing blinding spray,
Shipwrecked at Little Seal Cove,
up in Trepassey Bay.

At ten o'clock next morning
some fishermen from Drook,
As down that awful precipice
they chanced to cast a look;
They saw the Tolesby's
shipwrecked crew five hundred feet below,
While brave Joe Perry volunteered
that he to them would go.

This gallant, valiant fisherman,
that did this deed so bold,
His name it should be handed down
in letters of bright gold;
None but a noble fisherman
such danger would have faced,
As they lowered him o'er the hillside
with a rope tied 'round his waist.

And now amongst the shipwrecked crew
the rescuer he stands,
With a dozen fishermen above,
with strong and willing hands;
Around the waist of twenty-two
the hempen rope he tied,
And one by one they were pulled up
that rugged, steep hillside.

Oh, tell me not of other lands
where courage has been shown;
Have we not got the men to do
such brave deeds in our own?
Where would you find much braver men
than those upon that day,
Who saved the Tolesby's shipwrecked crew
up in Trepassey Bay?

####.... Author unknown. Traditional Newfoundland song ....####
This variant was printed in 1923 as The Loss Of The Tolesby on page 13 of Songs Their Fathers Sung, For Fishermen: Old Time Ditties, published in St John's by James Murphy [1867-1931], who noted that the SS Tolesby was lost January, 1907[sic], in Trepassey Bay on a voyage from Galveston, Texas, USA, bound to Havre, France.

A variant was collected as The Wreck Of The Tolesby in 1951 from John J Bulger [1894-?] 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 also collected in 1951 from Mrs John Augustus (Mary) Molloy [1895-1979] of St Shott's, NL, and published as The Wreck Of The Tolsby[sic] in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada © 2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

According to Newfoundland Estate Files, Rose Perry, the wife of Joseph Perry of The Drook, a tiny settlement in Trepassey Bay, predeceased him intestate on August 26, 1891. He later filed a petition to be his wife's executor in order to recover $400.00 in her bank account in St John's. Today, The Drook is part of Portugal Cove South.

From Stone Island Photography:
Road To Cape Race - The Drook - Using only ropes, the fishermen from The Drook, led by Joe Perry, scaled 500 foot cliffs to the rocks below. Risking their own lives, they saved the crew of the SS Tolesby out of West Hartlepool, England. The steamer had left Galveston, Texas, with a load of cotton destined for France. During February 1908, she ran into a blinding snow storm off Cape Race, NL, and, with her crew of 27, was shipwrecked nearby in Trepassey Bay.

From Hansard, the Official Report of debates in Parliament, Commons sittings, 11 March 1908, series 4 Vol. 185:
Mercantile Marine - Treatment Of Crews - Answer to Mr Havelock Wilson by Mr Kearley, President of the Board of Trade:

The attention of my right honourable friend has been called to the report of the court of inquiry held in the case of the SS Tolesby, and he is aware that the court censured the master for negligence in respect of the use of the lead. Three able seamen were engaged on this vessel at the commencement of the voyage in September last at Cardiff, and they were all foreigners. As the language test was not then in force I cannot say whether they understood English, but I have no doubt that they proved three years' sea service. As the reasons which the master gave before the court for his omission to use the lead are stated in their report, and as they do not in any way refer to the manning of the vessel, it is not proposed to institute further inquiry into the matter.
See more songs about NFLD shipwrecks.


Index Page
GEST Songs Of Newfoundland And Labrador


~ Copyright Info ~

~ Privacy Policy ~

Confirm Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Here