The McClure (Lehr and Best)

Attention all ye seamen brave
that sail the ocean far,
And hear of the clipper schooner
belong to George N Barry.¹
With her sails all set
and she cast her lines
and slowly left the pier,
In charge with Captain Taylor,
who belonged to Carbonear.

The McClure she left
the thirteenth of March
for Naples she was bound;
She's a clipper of the sailing fleet
with timbers strong and sound.
She carried a load of fish in bulk,
rough weather for to meet,
Until she reached Gibraltar
she was the beauty of the fleet.

A sharp look out for submarines,
a watch by every eye,
When Allen Barrett at her wheel
a submarine did spy;
He told the captain and the mate
if what he saw proved true,
The captain he gave orders
to heave the schooner to.

We lowered our canvas right away,
we lowered our boats that day,
We knew that our schooner would be sunk
and soon would row away;
The lieutenant and three of her sailors
have rowed on board of our craft,
He placed one bomb in her fo'castle
and another he put aft.

They ordered us to leave the ship,
so we done right away,
Left to the mercy of the waves
to row that livelong day;
And what provisions we had on board
and oilskins from our crew,
Our captain's sheet and sections
and coastal pilot, too.

We rowed the deep that livelong day
'til very late that night,
When a good Italian destroyer
that quickly hove in sight;
'Twas by their captain's orders
when us he did discern,
He ordered all our crew on board
and slacked our boat astern.

They asked us our nationality
as you may understand -
But we were British subjects
belongs to Newfoundland.
They landed us in Cadiz
where we were cared for well,
'Til we arrived at St John's town
the sad tale there to tell.

Six men composed our schooner's crew,
their names I did pen down:
There's Allen Barrett and Bert Noseworthy
belongs to St John's town;
There's Charlie Steven and William Bailey
and Bert Wills was our mate,
Those hardy sons from Newfoundland
belongs to Twillingate.

####.... Author unknown. Traditional Newfoundland ballad ....####
Collected by Genevieve Lehr and Anita Best in 1977 from Phillip Pius Power, Sr [1912-1993] of South East Bight, NL, and published as #76 in Come And I Will Sing You: A Newfoundland Songbook, pp.133-134, edited by Genevieve Lehr (University of Toronto Press ©1985/2003).

Genevieve Lehr explained footnote ¹ by commenting that Barry is very often pronounced Bar in Newfoundland, as it is in this song, rhyming with 'far'. Lehr also noted that the McClure was built at Tatamagouche, NS, and was owned by J T Moulton of Burgeo, NL, for the salt-fish trade. While sailing to a Mediterranean port with a cargo of six thousand quintals of fish, the McClure was sunk by a German submarine off the Spanish coast on May 22, 1917. Captain Augustus Taylor and his crew landed safely in their lifeboat at a port near Gibraltar. Lehr went on to say that there is some discrepancy as to the actual method the Germans used to sink the boat. The song, apparently composed by a member of the crew and therefore a first-hand account, has it that she was blown up by a bomb placed aft and another placed in her foc'sle. However, Lehr concluded, two published accounts state that she was either torpedoed or sunk by gun-fire.

See more Lehr and Best songs.

Per the Northern Shipwrecks Database the McClure, out of St John's, NL, was captured and bombed by a German submarine off Cape Carbonara, Sardinia, May 24, 1917.

From Wrecksite.eu - the 220 ton British sailing schooner McClure was built in Nova Scotia in 1900. On May 24, 1917, during a voyage from St John's, NL. to Naples with a cargo of codfish, McClure was captured and scuttled by the German submarine UC-35 (Ernst von Voigt) 30 miles East by South of Cape Carbonera, Sardinia. There were no casualties.

From the Dictionary Of Newfoundland English:
Quintal - hundredweight (112 pounds); measure of cod-fish caught by fishermen.

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