Betsey Mealy's Escape (James Murphy)

As I roved for recreation
in the springtime of the year,
I met a noble fisherman,
the day was fine and clear;
I met a noble fisherman,
those words to me did say:
Will you come along with me, fair girl,
to Branch, in St Mary's Bay?

Branch it is a pretty place,
the finest in Newfoundland,
It far exceeds the Metropolis,
the ground on which you stand;
You'll get four pounds ten for four long months,
oh, sign this very day,
And in twenty-four hours I will land you
in Branch, up in St Mary's Bay.

Kind sir, she said, your offer is fair,
if I could please my mind,
But still I do not like to
leave my many friends behind;
To leave my friends and parents,
and to go so far away,
Amongst so many strangers,
up in St Mary's Bay.

Oh, Betsey, lovely Betsey,
I have a lovely boat,
Indeed she is well fitted
with canvas, spars and rope;
And I have some women passengers
to accompany you on the way,
And in twenty-four hours I will land you
in Branch, up in St Mary's Bay.

I gave my consent that moment,
I had no more to do,
I went to see his little boat,
likewise his jovial crew;
You'd think they were Montgomerys,
or some gods that ruled the 'say',
But 'tis little I thought they belonged
to Branch, up in St Mary's Bay.

'Twas on a Monday morning,
from St John's we set sail,
When the day was gone, and night came on,
we had to shorten sail -
The wind sprung up most heavily,
and drove us far away,
But to my surprise I never saw
Branch, up in St Mary's Bay.

For three long days we were driven,
when a large sail hove in view,
And she bore down alongside of us,
to save our little crew;
And then they rushed to save
their lives in cowardly array,
And left my humble self on board,
bound for St Mary's Bay.

If ever you meet a Branch man,
just ask him what's his name,
And if it's English, Power, or Mooney,
treat that man with shame;
For their cowardly deed will
live until the judgement day,
To leave me on the ocean wide,
far from St Mary's Bay.

For three long days I was
driven upon the raging 'say',
When a sturdy French banker
came along that way;
And they landed me on St Peter's Island,
without any more delay,
Far from home and friends,
and far from St Mary's Bay.

Now may the angels fair above
protect and keep and guide
Those gallant-hearted Frenchmen
from all stormy winds and tide;
May the almighty god protect them,
wherever they may be,
For you know 'twas He who died
for us upon Mount Cavalry.

####.... Johnny Quill (see notes below) ....####
Printed in 1912 on pp.5-6 of Old Songs Of Newfoundland, and also in 1923 on pp.10-11 of Songs Their Fathers Sung, For Fishermen: Old Time Ditties, both published in St John's by James Murphy [1867-1931].

James Murphy's Publisher's Notes: Betsey Mealey, the heroine of this song, was born on what was in the days gone by known as "Meeting House Hill" in St John's. She was shipped one summer by a Branch man to go to the Cod Fishery. Betsey never saw St Mary's Bay, nor yet Branch, as the song denotes. It was composed by John Quill, an "old timer", a native of St John's, and a shoe-maker by trade, and was written in 1849.

GEST Notes: John Quill's shoemaker shop was in Hoylestown, an old neighbourhood located in the East End of St John's, near Clancey Drive and Lakeview Avenue off Quidi Vidi Lake.

A variant with the first six stanzas above were published by Gerald S Doyle as Betsey Mealy in Old-Time Songs And Poetry Of Newfoundland: Songs Of The People From The Days Of Our Forefathers, First edition, p.63, 1927.

GEST notes: The word 'say' in this song is written in local dialect as it sounds, and represents the word 'sea'.


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GEST Songs Of
Newfoundland And Labrador

(AD 1628 through 2020)


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