The Loss Of The Snorre (Lehr and Best)

Around the coast of Newfoundland,
brave fishermen reside,
Who spend much time upon the sea,
subsistence to provide;
But often times a gale swaps down,
brings havoc to our shore,
Bereaves our homes of loved ones,
makes many hearts feel sore.

On the eighteenth of September
at ten o'clock that night,
The elements of nature
broke forth with fearful might;
Everything was in commotion
by the bursting of the gale,
Which brought distress to many hearts
and caused many a wail.

Many happy ones returned home
back from the Labrador,
They prosecute the fisheries,
oft-times have done before;
With loaded schooners full of fish,
the commerce of our land,
How glad we were to greet them
and shake them by the hand.

But on this memorable night
around Bonavista shore,
The destruction of the elements
the like unknown before;
Here many a fine and sporting craft
this time did meet its doom,
Some with their summer's catch on board
lately arrived at home.

The fishing schooner Harold F
became a total wreck;
The Olive Branch and Planet too
were smashed from keel to deck.
The foreign going Reliance
to the waters edge cut down;
And many of our small fishing boats
next morning were not found.

It was not on the sea alone
but on the land as well,
The gale caused much destruction,
it's hard for one to tell,
How many of our small fishing boats
were smashed upon the shore,
And down went flakes and stages
which caused a great uproar.

Out by the old familiar spot
well known as Squarrey Head,
Where foreign ships do anchor
out by the old boatstead;
To take the produce of our land
unto some foreign shore,
With skillful navigators
and daring sailor men.

On Tuesday eve at three o'clock,
a vessel hove in sight,
Which proved to be a Norwegian sloop
which anchored in our bight.
The Snorre was the vessel's name,
she was chartered by J Ryan;
A brand new ship on her first trip
to stay here for a time.

Ah! Little did these seamen think
on reaching port that night,
With happy hearts and merry jests,
their spirits gay and light;
Thinking of their beloved at home,
those noble seamen brave,
That soon two of their number
would meet a watery grave.

On Wednesday night at ten o'clock
the Snorre burst her chains,
Through foaming seas was swept away
in darkness and in rain.
Rockets were fired into the air,
a signal of distress;
Their blooming shots flashed o'er the sea,
'Help' that was their request.

A group of men stood on the bank
they all seemed stricken dumb.
They all stood up like statues,
like men that had no tongues.
Until out stepped Ford among the crowd
and tears stood in his eyes;
'My God,' he shouts, 'can nought be done
to save those sailor boys.'

A rope he grasped into his hand
followed by three more men,
And rushed toward the stranded
with shouts, 'We must save them.'
Out, out into the raging sea
those heroes quickly went,
To save those drowning seamen,
it was their whole intent.

A rope Littles threw across the wreck
which men held fast on shore;
Until one by one they passed o'er it
'til the saved ones numbered four.
But oh, alas, unfortunately
two sank beneath the waves;
Fate had its way and doomed those boys
to meet a watery grave.

One of the two ill-fated lads
was thirteen years of age,
Who left his home in Norway
on the Snorre did engage.
Methinks I see the mother now
as she bade her lad good-bye;
As he took her hand on leaving home
saying, 'Mother, don't you cry.'

The tears streamed down that mother's cheek
as she held him by the hand,
Saying, 'Now, my boy, be always true
and do the best you can;
May God protect you on this voyage,
His blessings follow thee,
And keep thee from all dangers
that do attend the sea.

The other lad was older
and shipped as A & B,
Who supported his aged parents
by his earnings made at sea.
Oh, little did these parents think
as they bade the lad good-bye,
How soon the news would reach them
of the drowning of their boy.

All praise to Bonavista sons
for saving these four men,
To brothers Ford, Littles and Paul,
all praise be given them.
May this brave act go down for years,
may it resounded be,
How brothers Ford, Littles and Paul
saved four lives from the sea.

####.... Author unknown. Traditional Newfoundland song ....####
Collected in 1976 by Genevieve Lehr and Anita Best from Phillip Pius Power, Sr [1912-1993] of South East Bight, NL, and published as #98 in Come And I Will Sing You: A Newfoundland Songbook, pp.170-172, edited by Genevieve Lehr (University of Toronto Press ©1985/2003).

Genevieve Lehr noted that the Norwegian schooner Snorre was wrecked on the shores of Bonavista on 19 September 1907. Two young Norwegian boys were drowned, and the four others on board were rescued through the bravery of J Louis Little, Robert Brown, James C Little, William Ford, and Eli Paul, all men of Bonavista; they afterwards received recognition from the Carnegie Hero Commission. Lehr concluded by noting that A & B in the song is an abbreviation for able-bodied seaman.

See more Lehr and Best songs.

Note: The Daily News (St John's) featured a photograph on May 12, 1908, of Governor MacGregor at Bonavista, distributing medals granted by the Norwegian Government for service in connection with the wreck of the schooner Snorre.

From the Dictionary Of Newfoundland English:
Flake - platform built on poles and spread with boughs for drying cod-fish on the foreshore.
Stage - elevated platform on the shore with working tables, sheds, etc, where fish are landed and processed for salting and drying, and fishing gear and supplies are stored; fishing stage.

See more NL shipwreck songs.


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