The Wreck Of The Tolsby (MacEdward Leach)

See also: The Wreck Of The Tolesby (James Murphy)

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

She left Galveston, Texas,
in December, safe and sound,
With a heavy load of cotton
to a port in France was bound;
Her voyage being uneventful till
her course she tried to trade,
All in a blinding snowstorm
while making for Cape Race.

It was on Monday afternoon
the storm it did appear,
On the thirteenth day of January,
to you I'll make it clear;
When suddenly she struck a rock,
which ships had struck before,
Some distance from Freshwater Point,
near Little Seal's Cove shore.

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

They jumped into the seething froth
and swam towards the beach,
With thanks unto kind providence,
they all did safely reach;
With the wreckage from the ship
they left 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 the frowning cliffs all 'round them
and the ocean's maddened roar;
With the frozen sleet beneath their feet
and freezing, blinding spray,
Shipwrecked near Little Seal's Cove
up in Trepassey Bay.

Don't talk to me 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 such braver men
than those upon that day,
Who saved the Tolsby's shipwrecked crew
up in Trepassey Bay?

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

This gallant, valiant fisherman
such danger would have faced,
As they low'r'd him o'er the hillside
with a rope tied 'round his waist;
Around the waist of twenty-two
the hempen rope he tied,
And one by one they were pulled up
that rugged steep hillside.

####.... Author unknown. Traditional Newfoundland song ....####
Collected in 1951 from Mrs John Augustus (Mary) Molloy [1895-1979] of St Shott's, NL, and published with a misspelled title in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada, ©2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

A similar variant was printed in 1923 as The Wreck 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]. A variant was also collected in 1951 from John J Bulger [1894-?] of Trepassey, NL, and published as The Wreck Of The Tolesby 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, TX, 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 NL shipwreck songs.


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