A Father's Sacrifice (P J Dyer)

In that lonely lake, so far from land,
The fight for life began;
The boy was so young that the work all fell,
To the brave and fearless man.

He held his son with a strong, firm clasp,
As he swam towards the distant shore;
"I'll bring you to land, my boy," he said,
"Or I'll never touch it more."

On, on he plunged, through the water dark,
While the wind howled fierce and wild;
He was failing, he knew, but he lacked it not-
He must save his darling child.

Slower and weaker his strokes became,
And his heart grew chill with fear,
Lest his strength should fail ere his son was safe,
Though the shore seemed now so near.

"Oh God!" he cried, in his wild despair,
While his breath came short and fast;
"Forsake me not in this dreadful hour,
Let me save my boy at last."

His pray'r was heard, for just then he felt,
'Neath his feet the lake bed's sand;
And with all his strength he raised the youth,
And flung him towards the land.

'Twas his last brave act, he staggered back,
And sank in a watery grave,
Whilst, wading to land, but a few yards off,
Was the boy he had died to save.

He was only a simple fisherman,
But his heart was a heart of gold;
And on fame's long list no braver deed
Than Blanchard's is enrolled.

####.... P J Dyer ....####
This variant published 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.70, 1927.

Gerald S Doyle noted:
On Monday, November 9th, 1896, James Blanchard and his son, of Hauling Point (Western Bay, White Bay), were crossing a lake in a flat-bottom boat when the little craft sank, and they were left in the water a long way from the shore. The boy was unable to swim, but his father took him on his back and swam towards land. Just as the water began to get shallow, he felt his strength failing, and with one mighty effort he pitched the lad inwards, then fell back into the deep water and was drowned. The boy waded ashore.

Also printed on pp.6-7 of Murphy's Sealers' Song Book published in 1905 by James Murphy [1867-1931], St John's, NL.

The following article, which does not mention Blanchard as the boy's father, appeared five days later in The Evening Telegram St John's - Nov 14, 1896:

Heroic James Blanchard
Sacrifices His Own Life to Save That of a Boy - A Terrible Struggle - The Hero Falls Dead on Reaching the Shore.
Information reaches us by the SS Virginia Lake of a case of exceptional pathos and heroism - of a man acting a hero unto the very death, during what may be termed one of the ordinary pursuits of every day life at the place. There was given a "life for a life" - a noble sacrifice without blare of trumpets or the rallying cry of a general. There was, however, the consciousness of doing a good act - aye, a most noble act. This is it: James Blanchard of Hauling Point, accompanied by a boy, went on
A Deer Hunting Expedition.
They were crossing over a lake in a small, flat-bottomed boat. Through excitement, or some other cause, the boat capsized and went right over. The two persons were sent struggling for life in the water. They were quite a long distance from shore. The man could swim well; the boy but little or not at all. Blanchard, while recognizing that the preservation of his own life would involve a great effort, was, at the same time, moved with pity for the boy, and, as the phrase goes: He would save him or
Die in the Attempt.
Blanchard took the boy on his back, and then struck out for the shore. On, on he went. He became feeble and more feeble. He sank lower and lower gradually. Would he reach the shore? Oh, what moments of intensity! Ho! He just neared the shore. The boy acrambles to land, beaten out, yet rescued from death. But the man? Alas! He is drowned! He sacrificed his life saving that of another. How painful, yet how noble! What heroism!


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