Willy March (Gerald S Doyle)

The home of his childhood in Northern Bay,
He quit it for pleasure much more than for pay;
On the ice-fields he ventured
most youthful and brave,
Whereon he sought death
but his life could not save.

That cold night in March
he lay miles from the shore,
From friends that were watching
to see him once more;
But alas, human aid may be looked for in vain,
For life was too sweet on the ice to remain.

At dawn Easter Saturday,
ah! happy they would be,
If in the Bay of Conception
a sail they could see;
But no sound from the ocean
could bid them rejoice,
Or lead them to think he was safe on the ice.

With courage undaunted he set out anew,
To reach Cape St Francis, the object in view;
When three of his comrades -
whose number was four -
Lay on their cold beds not to walk with no more.

He and the other set out for the Cape,
How hard it must dwell on that poor feller's fate!
He found himself weak as he got near the shore,
And he said to the other, "I cannot walk more."

He said to the other, "Go on for the light.
Tell them at the house to come for me tonight!"
This man reached the lighthouse,
which being quite nigh,
But little he thought he left Willy to die.

Oh, rugged Cape St Francis! re-echoed the voice
From him who for aid called loud on the ice;
He expected assistance but none did receive,
And he died near the shore
where the lost might be saved.

####.... Author unknown. Traditional Newfoundland ballad ....####
Published on p.80 of Old Time Songs and Poetry of Newfoundland: Songs Of The People From The Days Of Our Forefathers, 2nd Ed, 1940, printed by the publishers of The Family Fireside For Gerald S Doyle, St John's.

Cape St Francis is located at the extremity marking the boundary of Conception Bay on the Avalon Peninsula approximately 31 km north of St John's, and 6 km north of Pouch Cove via route NL-20 N. Cape St Francis lighthouse marks the south entrance to Conception Bay and is managed by the Canadian Coast Guard. It was established in 1877 and the current tower was built in the 1930s. The lighthouse is accessible by a rough road from Pouch Cove; walking or 4 wheel drive are recommended. The site around the lighthouse is open to the public as a scenic hike or picnic area, but the tower is closed.

Mary Elizabeth McCarthy [b.1887] of Northern Bay wrote this information in 1964 when she was 77. It was transcribed exactly as written with no corrections by Matt Mullaly - "Northern Bay has had its tragedies as well. Four fine young men from this place went on the ice one morning; the Arctic ice was into the shoreline. Two Hogan boys, and there were brothers Willy March and Richard Fahey, died here that day. The wind had veered and the ice of course went out with it. March's body was the only one recovered, and I can remember so well the older ones telling of the day the 'little steam boat' came in the harbor with the body of young March. His was the only one recovered. You may depend that this was a sad time in Northern Bay."


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