Discovery Of Newfoundland (Gerald S Doyle)

The shades of eve were falling
o'er Atlantic's silent breast,
Around the Cabot Landfall
the wavelets lay at rest;
The Centennial Memorial
in dim perspective lay,
And the plover whistled softly
'round the borders of the bay.

O! In and out the Narrows,
the lights passed one by one,
The steamer's pulsing engines beat,
the schooner's white sails shone;
And Judge Prowse lay slowly musing
of the Signal Station grand,
Which would tell to the outside nations
how the wind lay on our land.

That evening Pat O'Dady,
in his cottage by the sea,
Sitting dreaming of the "Landfall", cried,
"They're wrong as wrong can be;
Yis, begor! The avenin' papers
an' all the rist are wrong,
An' they're try'n' to give the honor
where the honor don't belong.

"For the ricords of my family
tell plain as ye desire,
That me father's great-grand-father's -
great-antsisters' great-grand sire,
In a ship that's called the Matty,
sailed out from Wixford town,
Since thin a set of spalpeens
have stolen his renown.

"The crew were mostly Irish,
save one O'Rourke from Cork,
An' according to the ricords,
begor! He was a Turk;
For the rascal broke the dog-watch,
an' cat-heads burnt for wood,
An' me great-antsister served him
as a navigator should.

"Thin first he weighed his anchor,
an' found it just the mark,
An' as the stars were rising
he vanquished in the dark;
The crews' names are not mentioned,
but the ricords all insist,
That O'Dady's sailing master,
bore the name of Boney-fist.

"So they sailed across the ocean,
until one night in June,
They saw a headland silvered
by the radiance of the moon;
And they saw the dark Beothic
in their birch canoes flit by,
Heard the wavelets o'er the pebbles
chant a gentle lullaby.

"Then céad mille fáilte,
the Irish sailors cried,
An' they greeted Pat O'Dady
with words of praise and pride;
'But, saye he, 'I'll share the honor,
I really must insist,
An' this first land we have sighted
we'll call Cape Boney-fist.'

"Alas!" sighed Pat O'Dady,
"Such is the fame of earth,
Me antsisters in oblivion,
while Cabot's blazoned forth;"
And he slowly closed the records,
and watched the moonbeams play
O'er the rough brows of the Narrows,
and the waters of the bay.

####.... Author unknown. Humourous Newfoundland ballad ....####
Collected by Gerald S Doyle in Old-Time Songs And Poetry Of Newfoundland: Songs Of The People From The Days Of Our Forefathers, 1st ed, p.41, 1927.

Gerald S Doyle noted:
Local historians vary in their report on the discovery of Newfoundland. This song deals with the subject in a humourous way and states that Bonavista gets its name from an Irish sea captain who was called "Boney fist".

In English, the Irish phrase, céad mille fáilte, means a hundred thousand welcomes.

From the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online 1911-1920 (Vol XIV) by G M Story © 2000 University of Toronto:
Daniel Woodley Prowse [1834-1914] - lawyer, judge, politician, historian, essayist, and office holder, born in Port de Grave. Author of History Of Newfoundland published in 1895. In 1897 he became secretary of a committee formed to raise funds for a monument commemorating John Cabot's voyage of 1497 and the diamond jubilee of Victoria's reign, while also providing a modern ships' signaling facility. In 1900 Cabot Tower, an imposing granite structure on the highest point of Signal Hill, overlooking the entrance to St John's Harbour, was officially opened.

From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
Cat-Head - projecting piece of timber (or iron) near the bow of a ship to which the anchor is hoisted and secured.
Spalpeen - seasonal laborer, rascal (chiefly Irish).

From Wikipedia:

Dog-Watch - in marine or naval terminology, is a period of work duty or a work shift, between 1600 and 2000 (4pm and 8pm). This period is split into two, with the first dog-watch from 1600 to 1800 (4pm to 6pm) and the second dog-watch from 1800 to 2000 (6pm to 8pm). Each of these watches are half the length of a standard watch to create an odd number of watches in a ship's day. This allows the sailors to stand different watches instead of one team being forced to stand the mid-watch every night. The choice of time also allows both watches, if there are only two, to eat an evening meal at about the traditional time.

The Narrows - one and only entrance to St John's Harbour consisting of a narrow channel between the Southside and Signal Hills. It has a least depth of 11 meters and at its narrowest point near Chain Rock it is 61 meters wide. The Narrows has served an important defense of the city of St John's from early pirates and settlers in 1655 to the Second World War. In 1655 vice admiral Christopher Martin erected a fort on the south side to prevent privateers and enemy vessels from entering the port. In 1763 Fort Amherst was built in the same area. In the late 1700s a chain was erected across the narrows from Chain Rock to Pancake Rock which could be raised in the event of enemy ships advancing into the harbour. During the Second World War a steel mesh was installed to prevent enemy submarines from entering.

From the Dictionary of Newfoundland English:
Beothic also Beothuk, Beothick, Beothuck, etc - Member of a tribe of Indians, now extinct, related to the Algonkian people and inhabiting Newfoundland; Native; native Indian, Red Indian.


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