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Ye hardy sons of Newfoundland,
I hope you will draw near,
And listen unto these few lines
That never did ye hear;
Being in the Fall of sixty-nine,
By Shea we were took on,
We had to leave our homes and our friends so dear,
On the shore of Newfoundland.
We first set sail for Montreal,
Employment there to find,
To work upon the railroad,
Sure, we felt well inclined;
All night we lay on the cold ground,
Where the diggers could not stand,
It made us curse the hour we left,
Our homes in Newfoundland.
We then set sail for Halifax,
Our fortune there to find,
To work upon the riverboat,
Our wages they ran high;
They robbed us of our earnings,
Which put us to our stand,
How cruel was she who sent us away,
From our homes in Newfoundland.
We then set sail for Boston,
From that to Gloucester town,
Seeking for employment,
We wandered all around;
The work it being kind of scarce,
In Gloucester we did appear,
We shipped on board of the Morning's Gloom,
For George's Banks did steer.
We anchored on those George's Banks,
November the twenty-two,
It's my intention to relate,
The hardship we went through;
With cyclones and shifting sands,
And heavy showers of snow,
As the wind was to the east-north-east,
Most violently did blow.
There were vessels of the noblest mould
Were sinking all around,
And the jovial crew of twenty-two
On Georgie that day went down,
You'd pity their misfortune
To hear their mournful cry;
To see those helpless fishermen,
As they go pass you by.
Kind fortune seemed to favour us,
We had a change of wind,
We cut our cable from the bow,
Left Georgie's banks behind;
'Twas by our Captain's orders,
We quickly crowded sail,
For four long weary days, me boys,
She ran before the gale.
Until our log it told us
That the land was drawing nigh,
About six o'clock in the afternoon,
A light we chanced to spy;
A light, almost revolving-like,
Gave us to understand,
The most southernmost point, I mean Cape Race,
On the coast of Newfoundland.
We tried our best endeavours,
To round our vessel to,
We tried her under double reefs,
But nothing would she do;
"Shake out all reefs," our Captain cried,
"For the land we must keep clear."
And for four long hours on a balling stretch,
On the water she did tear.
When she came to and shook herself,
'Twas a dismal sight to view,
Out of our fourteen fishermen,
Remained but five and two;
The rest they were washed overboard,
As you will understand,
They met a cairn and a watery grave,
On the shores of Newfoundland.
'Twas early the next morning,
We sighted the Cape Spear,
And to the harbour of St. John's
Our shipwreck we did steer
Where we met friends, kind-hearted ones,
To listen to our sad tale,
While we relate the hardships,
Of those cold November gales.
The hardships of those George's Banks
No penman can pen down,
For I fished east and west, my boys,
And I fished all around;
Well, I fished east and west, my boys,
In stormy wintertime,
But there's none compared to George's Banks,
Let all their force combine.
Collected in 1950 from Martin Reddigan [1903-1980] of Calvert, NL, and published in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada © 2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).
An eight-verse partial variant was collected in 1951 from Gordon Walters of Trepassey, NL, and published as George's Banks in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada © 2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).
An eleven-verse partial variant was also collected in 1951 from John James of Trepassey, NL, and published as George's Banks in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada © 2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).
A variant was also collected by Kenneth Peacock and published as George's Banks in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Volume 3, pp.916-921, by The National Museum Of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.
Note: Sir Ambrose Shea [1815-1905] was a member of the Newfoundland House of Assembly and leader of the Liberal opposition. He was pro-Confederation during the years after the 1865 Quebec Conference when persistent economic depression favored change through Confederation. This song refers to Shea taking on a crew of men in the Fall of 1869.
See more songs about Newfoundland and Labrador shipwrecks.