The Fatal Race (P J Dyer)

I stood upon the bank and saw
each rower take his place,
And marked the firm determined look
that gathered on each face;
With straining nerves they bent their heads,
their bright oars touched the wave,
They waited till the flashing gun
the starting signal gave.

Then quickly went their pliant oars
as down the lake they sped,
The Terra Nova turned the buoy
some fifty yards ahead;
Her brave young crew with joyful hearts,
put forth their strength to gain
The winning post; alas, poor souls,
their efforts were in vain.

They pulled so strong, their frail boat
sank beneath the surging wave,
And three of that young, dauntless crew
soon met a watery grave;
The Native reached the winning post,
and Bennett's famous band -
While cheers resounded - briefly played
The Banks Of Newfoundland.

But soon the music ceased to play,
spectators held their breath,
A visitor had crossed the lake,
that visitor was Death;
Yes, o'er the shore a gloom was cast,
and many a strong heart quailed,
And many a laughing eye grew dim,
and many a gay cheek paled.

And many, I ween, both young and old,
felt in their hearts that day,
How vain and false are earthly joys
which pass so soon away;
Let not this warning from above
unheeded pass our door,
Let's live each day expecting death
more holy than before.

And God, I trust, did those three youths
by His sweet grace prepare,
Before He called them to Himself,
His Heavenly throne to share.

####.... P J Dyer, 1884 ....####
Printed on p.21 of the Atlantic Guardian, volume 13, number 09, (September-October, 1956), Ewart Young [1913-1968] editor, published by Guardian Limited, St John's, NL.

This song was composed for John T O'Connor's Book Of Gatherings. The "fatal race" in the song took place August, 6, 1884, when three young men from Torbay were drowned in Quidi Vidi Lake. A monument was erected in Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Cemetery in Torbay, NL "by the St John's T A and B (Total Abstinence and Benefit) Society and others, in memory of John J Martin, Samuel Goss and Mogue Power, natives of Torbay, and members of the Juvenile T A and B Society of said place, who were drowned in Quidi Vidi Lake by the sinking of a race boat on Regatta Day, August, 6, 1884. May they rest in peace."

Regarding P J Dyer:
¹ The following marriage announcement was published in the Harbour Grace Standard and Conception-Bay Advertiser on October 29, 1887:
At Lourde's Chapel, Riverhead, St John's, on the 26th inst., by the Rev John Ryan, assisted by Rev E Crook: P J Dyer (Head Teacher, St Patrick's Hall School, Merrymeeting Road, St John's) to Katie M, youngest daughter of Mr Phillip Brown, of Sound Island, Placentia.
² P J Dyer and M A Devine were the propietors of the Fire Fly in St John's which was described by the Daily Review on August 1, 1899, as "the first paper that occurred after the Great Fire on July 8, 1892. It was only a manuscript paper, and only one copy was issued every day. Every evening at half-past four it was hung outside the door of Mr. M G Lash, and very few papers published in St John's had a larger constituency of readers. It contained (daily) a foreign message, the arrival of relief steamers, the beginning of various new structures, and, perhaps most important of all, the movements of the Relief Committee. The Fire Fly was an unpretentious attempt, but it filled the gap admirably, until the arrival of material for the Morning Despatch, edited by Henry W LeMessurier, which was only known to have been published from July 13 to August 22, 1892."

¹ Quailed - felt or showed fear or apprehension.
² Ween - think; suppose.

From Wikipedia:
Royal St John's Regatta - North America's oldest annual sporting event with documented proof of boat races held in 1816, and credible contention they were held as far back as the 18th-century. Held on Quidi Vidi Lake in St John's, the Regatta is scheduled for the first Wednesday of every August. If weather isn't suitable (wind conditions are very important) the event is postponed until the next suitable day. Since Regatta Day is a civic holiday in St John's, this means the weather actually determines whether or not workers have the day off - a matter sometimes complicated by late-night partying associated with the end of the city's George Street Festival the night before. Crews row six-member, coxswained, fixed-seat racing shells which are the property of the Royal St John's Regatta Committee and as identical as possible. Men's crews row a 2.45 km course, women's crews row a 1.225 km course, and all crews are required to turn buoys and return to the start-finish line. A growing number of people, local and foreign, visit Quidi Vidi Lake each year for the event, averaging around 50,000 in recent years. It has also become a popular spot for both provincial and federal politicians to meet the public. Aside from the rowing competitions, the Royal St John's Regatta is well-known for its lakeside entertainment. The Regatta hosts hundreds of booths operated by individuals and organizations, ranging from various games of chance to food and drink.


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