Empress of Ireland – Morton

A recording of this song is available online.



It was off Father Point, many long years ago,
That an Empress was lost they say
The bright boastful pride, of the Canadian Pacific died;
And was lost in the Saint Lawrence seaway.

How could they know when they left old Quebec,
That disaster did lay before her?
For a twin?-funnelled liner of such grace and repute
Was a grand voyage home for a traveller.

‘Twas in May of ’14 the blue peter unfurled
Vowing that the Empress was sailing on time,
And flying high over the liner that day
Was the red and white flag of the CPR line.

And young Captain Kendall was a sailor man sure
From clipper days a pilot, so clever and steadfast,
‘Twas he who caught Crippen on the old liner Montrose
Learned his trade twenty years ‘fore the mast…

She was a Liverpool ship with a Liverpool crew;
From Everton and Toxteth and Bootle they joined her
For a job was a job, be it at sea or on shore,
And over four hundred ‘scousers’ they crewed her…

From the old River Mersey to the coast of Gaspe
Her rivals the Allan, Cunard and White Star,
Made the Atlantic crossing quite a profitable one
For the Lords with their top hats, old port and cigars.

So it was that the Storstad, a Norwegian from Sydney,
Filled with the coal for some far off land,
A lumpy six thousand ton flush decker steamer
Under old Captain Anderson’s command.

Then it was out of the fog, that collier he came,
The hull of the liner he tries to evade,
But the steamers collide, tho’ to turn they both tried,
And his bows gut the liner like a fisherman’s blade…

In the evenings the portholes were all to be closed
But the stewards would often just turn a blind eye,
For their job was to please them, not to oppose,
The passengers who wanted fresh air to sleep by.

And as the Empress heeled over, those open portholes
Were the end of many a traveller,
For the water rushed in, drowned men and their kin,
And they had only seconds to save themselves.

Captain Kendall, he cried, “Away all the boats,
Give me steam, and I’ll try, lads, to beach her”,
But no answer there was, from the telegraph handles,
For the men down below were no longer.

Then the lights they went out, and a panic began,
As fear raced through many of their number,
And those who survived, were in their night clothes,
For those who stayed back to dress never made it.

At nine minutes past two, her stern it lifts up,
And she plunges down deep to the seabed,
Fourteen minutes was all of the time that it took,
For her drama to be run to its finish.

Oh yes, it was all such a long time ago,
And few there are left who remember,
The Empress that drowned and was lost near the sound,
Of the Father Point foghorn that mourned her.

And are we surprised that those who were lost,
Have today been all but forgotten?
When the bloodbath of millions still lay ahead,
‘Neath the thunder of the guns that autumn.

But the sailors who still travel the old Saint Laurent
With holds filled with grain for Canada’s exports,
Still are wary of the fog on those cold summer nights,
As they make their way back to their homeports.

Oh, Irish Empress of the ocean,
Oh, Irish Empress of the seas.

Source of lyrics: SoundClick website

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