There's a story I know you've heard before, but I must tell again,
'Bout a schooner out of Fortune Bay and her brave fishermen;
One of the last of a dying breed to dory-fish the Banks,
I'll tell you the fateful story of the schooner Marshall Frank.
She was built in 1926 in Lunenburg's fair port,
By Smith and Rhuland where the Bluenose keel was laid some years before;
She carried eleven dories, was nearly eighty tons,
Owned first by Captain Risser and named after the Captain's son.
This story that my song will tell took place in forty-nine,
When owned by Mister James Petite and Skipper Abraham Miles;
In February, set to sail with twenty-six in crew,
From Fortune Bay to Halifax to take some fish on route.
She left the Isle of Ramea and trawled the Burgeo Ledge,
By the time they reached Cape Breton's shore stowed 20 tons of fish;
'Round three a.m., in a gale and snow, this schooner came to grief,
Near Gabarus off the Framboise shore on the Mary Joseph reef.
With her starboard side fast on the rocks, and the raging sea to port,
None of the crew could see how they could safely reach the shore;
To launch a dory in such strife which braced their win'ard side,
Would take a miracle to do, but they had no choice but try.
For us on land to understand how anyone survived,
How four trusty dories safely launched with 21 alive;
In the thick of snow and sleet they thought they heard the fearful cries,
Of the five who were the last to leave the Marshall Frank behind.
Rowing hard to sea and not to land seemed very strange to do,
But a lifetime watching nature's whims can save a seasoned crew;
When daylight came, though stormy yet, they made a run to reach,
To the safety of the good dry land along the Framboise beach.
All but the crew in dory five made it safely to the shore,
And soon to find their comrades dear awash among the foam;
Garfield Greene and Norman Ball were lost I'm sad to say,
With three Blagdons: Conrad, Leo and John, who hailed from Fortune Bay.
I wish I could in these few lines name every gallant man,
Still the good folk here in Fortune Bay remembers them today;
But I do have Charlie Skinner and Leo Pope to thank,
For this sad yet happy story of the schooner Marshall Frank.
####.... Bud Davidge ....####
Recorded by Bud Davidge (Black And White, trk#9, 2009 CD, SWC Productions, English Harbour West, NL, recorded at Sim's Studio, Belleoram, and distributed by Tidespoint, St. John's, NL).
The Grand Banks schooner Bluenose, hull #119, was built by Smith and Rhuland, launched in Lunenburg on March 26, 1921, and wrecked off Haiti in 1946. The schooner Marshall Frank, hull #137, was launched in 1926, and wrecked off Cape Betron, Nova Scotia on February 16, 1949.
Five Newfoundlanders were lost and 21 rescued when their 144-ton schooner Marshall Frank went down in the storm-tossed Atlantic after hitting Mary Joseph Shoals, 22 miles south of Sydney, Nova Scotia. Twenty-one of the fishermen reached shore in dories during the storm.
Capt. Abraham Miles reported that 26 men aboard his ship were caught unawares when the vessel hit the shoal about six miles from the Forchu lighthouse. Fog had set in after the fishermen had cruised in close to the rocky Cape Breton shore to escape the rolling sea and winds which sent waves booming over the craft. Captain Miles reported that rocks went through the bottom of the boat. They had 11 dories but could use only six. Miles had leaped into a dory and was joined by James Burton and Harold Keeping. They rowed away from the ledges and shouted to the others to follow. The crew said they spotted five dories and thought all had gotten off.
The Marshall Frank was one of many banking schooners that fished the Grand Banks out of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Even though the vessel fished out of Lunenburg, many of her 26-man crew were from the Fortune Bay area of Newfoundland. A number of these crew members came from Boxey, including: Richard Price, Stephen P. Blagdon, Leo Blagdon, Charles J. Sheppard, James H. Blagdon, Cecil Blagdon, Conrad Blagdon, Charles Skinner, Edwin Miles, James Burke, and Abe Miles, the Captain. The remaining crew members came from Coomb's Cove, Wreck Cove and Rencontre West.
At four in the afternoon on February 16, 1949, the crew saw the skies darken and snows fall. After Captain Abe Miles called the dories back to the ship, he neared the shore of Nova Scotia where land was sighted around midnight and a bearing taken. At 3:30 a.m. on February 17, seven foot waves hurled men out of their bunks and the Marshall Frank grounded. The Captain thought the schooner was breaking up so all but five of the crew took to the dories and made their way to nearby Framboise where they were given food and shelter by Dan Norman and his wife. When they returned to the beach of Framboise Cove in the early morning, the wind had died down and the storm had cleared. The Marshall Frank was on the shoals still intact. Dan Norman later stated that, in his opinion, if the last five men had stayed on the wreck they would have been safe. The two men from Boxey that were lost were Conrad Blagdon and Leo Blagdon; one from Coomb's Cove: John Samuel Blagdon; and two from Rencontre West: Norman Ball and Garfield Greene.
Leo Pope: A Life At Sea was authored by Randell Pope and includes the Marshall Frank Story.
Captain Frank William Risser [1888-1952] was from Kingsburg, Nova Scotia.