The Ballad of the Autumn Gale


Come all ye toilers of the deep, for only seamen know
The treachery of the ocean; how wild the winds can blow.
I will tell you a story, of a stormy autumn day,
When vessels anchored in the port, went fishing from Glace Bay.

It was the month of October on the twenty-second day,
With the wind nor’west we left the bay, our hearts were light and gay;
Our mainsails fluttered in the breeze, our engines chugged below
As we hurried from the harbor and to the fishing grounds did go.

No thought of danger filled our mind when we sailed from the bay;
At ten o’clock the storm came on, that bleak October day.
The wind now blew a hurricane, we had to shorten sail,
As we were tossed upon the sea by the dreadful autumn gale.

Captain Pink and his eldest son in the smallest boat of all
With a chap named Johnny Turner, got caught in the heavy squall;
Their mast was carried overboard and drenched by the heavy sea
The captain kept before the wind and ran for Scaterie.

“My gallant boys,” said Captain Pink, “Our boat will never stand
“The heavy seas and dreadful breeze. How shall we reach the land?
“We’ll head her for Flint Island, how thankful I shall be
“If the little Alvin W. rides through this heavy sea.”

Tossed and driven by the Sea, the stalwart fishing boat
Struck the North Side of Flint Island, and no longer kept afloat;
Through the turbulent waters, while the autumn winds did roar,
The crew of the Alvin W. swam safely to the shore.

The first to reach the harbor was the Glace Bay boat Hello,
Her decks swept clear of fishing gear, by the dreadful Autumn’s blow;
With tattered sails, and battered rails, with gear and dory gone
She gained the sheltered harbour before the night came on.

The vessel Eva Billard, that stormy autumn day
Lashed by the fury of the breeze, reached the port of Morien Bay
And on October twenty-third, friends gathered at the shore
To greet the Eva Billard, sailing back to port once more.

The eager watchers on the shore, soon spied another sail
The sturdy Carolina Moon had weathered out the gale;
The comrades of the fishermen waved and cheered for joy
When safe into the harbour came the Ethel J. Roy.

Why do the anxious fishermen gaze at the sullen sea?
They are afraid a comrade’s boat have foundered in the breeze.
The airships circle overhead while steamers search around.
No tidings of the Bluebeard and her crew of five are found.

On board the missing Bluebeard with John Hayman in command,
Were four brave, hardy seamen from the isle of Newfoundland,
Far from the port of Rameau, John Hayman and his crew
Lie cradled in their ocean bed, beneath the waters blue.

Tonight as I write, the stars shine bright, on the bosom of the deep;
Beneath her heavy mantle, many gallant seamen sleep,
She guardeth well her secret, the sea alone doth know
Where the little vessel foundered, while the autumn winds did blow.

There’s aching hearts in Newfoundland, in the homes of fishermen;
We who live to tell the tale, will sympathize with them.
We pray the Lord to bless us all, and keep forever more
The fishermen who man the boats, when autumn winds do roar.

Source: Walsh, Lillian Crewe. 2006. Cape Breton’s Lillian Crewe Walsh: A Treasury of Ballads and Poems. Wreck Cove, NS: Breton Books (p13-14).

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