We don’t know much about this song although it has been documented by various collectors and published in several collections, as noted here. Most of the collectors provide notes about the disaster narrated in the song, but nothing about the composer and little about the performers. However, Ryan and Small note, “Mr. Roberts, now 84 [in c.1978], has known this song all his life. He learned it from ‘a sailor’” (41-42). This would suggest that the song was composed relatively soon after the disaster (1896) and Mr. Roberts’ version may well be quite close to the original.
In addition to the lyrics below, another verse was sent to folklorist Kenneth Peacock at Memorial University of Newfoundland after he made a request for songs in a local newspaper (MUNFLA 78-36, p92):
The Maggie, Capt Blundon
For St. John’s town did sail
Filled up with fish also cod oil
And lumber to the rail
When near the heads at fall of dark
When near Fort Amherst light
The Tiber, bound for Montreal
Loomed up before their sight.
Matthew Byrne is a young folk singer and guitarist from Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. Byrne was born into a musical family and enjoys collecting stories and songs, which make up much of his repertoire. He released his first album, Ballads, in 2010 and received nominations for three awards at the East Coast Music awards in 2011. Byrne not only has a career as a solo artist, but also sings and plays bouzouki for the Newfoundland group The Dardanelles. His version of “Loss of the Schooner Maggie” is available through iTunes and streamed on CBC Music.
Ye fisherman, who know so well
The dangers of the deep,
Come listen to a few sad lines,
And join with us and weep
For the loss of the schooner Maggie,
And thirteen precious lives
That left so many homes bereft
Of husbands, sons, and wives.
At ten forenoon, November five,
The Maggie sailed away
From happy homes near Brooklynn
In Bonavista Bay.
Light winds did waft her on her course,
Light hearted was her crew.
When Friday evening off the narrows,
The city came in view.
Our hopes ran high, our hearts were glad,
We soon would tread the shore,
And turn to cash, the fruits of toil
Upon the Labrador.
The city lights did seem to greet,
And welcome us to town,
When Captain Blunden cried, my boys
A steamer is bearing down.
Think of a raging monster fierce,
Seeking his prey to get,
She bore right down on us, but we hoped
Her course would alter yet,
We shouted loud, in wild dismay,
“Too Late”, an awful crash;
Next moment o’er our shatter craft
The hungry waves did dash.
The scene that followed then; Oh God,
‘Tis branded on my brain.
Rather then would I wish to drown
Than witness it again.
When shriek on shriek did rent the air,
And men fought for their lives,
When brother saw a brother sink,
A husband saw his wife.
Of twenty-three that left their homes
On that bright sunny morn.
Thirteen poor souls were hushed in death
And never can return,
But the name of the steamer Tiber
Will fall in days to come
On ears of the Brooklynn people
Like the sound of a funeral drum.
The Tiber just turned around the head
Close where the Maggie lay,
And just below the cabin doors
The schooner cut away,
The screeches of the drowning men
Were dismal for to hear
Far, far from home, and friends they loved
And orphan children dear.
The steamer’s boats were quickly lowered,
And hastened to the wreck.
And some did scramble o’er her side
And landed safe on deck.
But out of three and twenty souls
Who sailed from Goose Bay shore,
Thirteen poor creatures sank that night
To see their homes no more.
From Newfoundland’s Grand Banks site.