1929 Tidal Wave (Herridge & Wall)



November eighteenth in nineteen twenty-nine,
On Newfoundland’s south coast the weather was fine;
The people were busy with everyday chores,
Not knowing the danger that fate held in store.
Then out on the Grand Banks an earthquake occurred,
The earth shook and trembled, the ocean was stirred;
Just seven-point-two on the old Richter scale,
The damage it caused is a very sad tale.

We’ll always remember, in story and rhyme,
The Newfoundland tidal wave of twenty-nine.

Later that night, as the story unfolds,
The water went out of the harbours and coves;
While out on the Grand Banks, the sea gathered force,
Till it struck the land, keeping straight on its course.
The first wave came in with a thunderous roar,
In anger and fury it lashed at the shore;
A thirty-foot monster with vengeance in mind.
And when it retreated, two more came behind.

The horrified people now shook in their boots,
As hundreds of buildings were torn from their roots;
They scrambled for safety through the windows and doors,
As houses were flooded far in from the shore.
The last wave grew quiet, the moon it was bright,
The sea became calm but it was a sad sight;
The harbours were filled with debris of all kinds,
As three killer waves left a shambles behind.

We’ll always remember, in story and rhyme,
The Newfoundland tidal wave of twenty-nine.

The ocean demanded, humanity gave,
For thirty-six lives had been claimed by the waves;
With twenty-six schooners and one hundred boats,
And all counted losses with lumps in their throats.
From down around Burin, up to Lamaline,
They’d never forget the destruction they’d seen;
As nature unleashed, like a wild beast deprived,
In fifteen short minutes had changed all their lives.

We’ll always remember, in story and rhyme,
The Newfoundland tidal wave of twenty-nine.


Lyrics from GEST Songs from Newfoundland & Labrador

2 responses to “1929 Tidal Wave (Herridge & Wall)”

  1. Edith says:

    I can never understand why anyone would want to keep alive in song a tragedy where so many people lost their lives. Makes me wonder what makes some people “tick”

  2. Heather Sparling says:

    Thanks for your thoughts, Edith. I think that the prevalence of disaster songs right through history and after every kind of event imaginable suggests that they play an important role for songwriters, and their popularity with audiences suggests that disaster songs do something beneficial for them too. Part of my research investigates those roles, and I’ve written about some of them in the blog attached to this website (there’s a link at the top of this page). For example, disaster songs may help with the grieving process. There are many stages to grief, and it often requires retelling a story repeatedly, as well as finding a way to honour and remember the dead. Songs can help with both aspects of grief, among others. Of course, not everyone writes disaster songs nor listens to them, and different people process grief differently. If disaster songs strike you as “morbid” or negative in some other way, that’s certainly a reasonable response. It’s just not everyone’s response, as I think the contents of this website attest.

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