The Greenland Disaster – by Walsh



1. Ye tender hearted Christians, I hope you will attend
To these few feeling verses that I have lately penned.
Listen to my mournful story; your grief it will renew,
When I relate the hardships that befell the Greenland’s crew.

2 They sailed from St. John’s Harbour all on the tenth of March,
Commanded by Captain Barbour, the ice fields for to search;
With colors flying gaily they gave three hearty cheers,
But mark what followed after, you quickly shall hear.

3 Her course it lay into the North; she boldly sailed away
Down to the North, passed by the Funks, she still kept on her way;
No danger seemed to threaten this gay and gallant boat
And on the twelfth, I heard them say, they took their first white coat.

4 From that until the twenty-first all seemed bright and gay,
And for to get a saving trip they killed and panned away;
It crowned their labors with delight the prospect being so great,
They did not know the grief and woe that on them did await.

5 It was early on the twenty-first just by the morning light
The Captain gave orders, all with a cheerful voice:
“All hands, all hands upon the ice, be ready one and all!”
And each man then most cheerfully responded to that call.

6 But in a short time after that the storm king did arise;
Boreas blew with vengeance which darkened o’er the skies.
Those poor unhappy creatures, they knew not where to go;
They could find no protection from the bitter frost and snow.

7 They then drew close together their freezing limbs to warm;
It was a small protection from that wild and bitter storm.
They raised a prayer most fervently to Him above the sky;
They cast one mournful glance all round and they laid down to die.

8 When the Greenland came in view, 0, what a dreadful sight!
Twenty-five stiff frozen corpses lay dead upon the ice.
Those twenty-five were brought to land, but, shocking to relate,
There are twenty-three still missing, which number forty-eight.

9 There is one among the missing, from St. Brenden he came;
He was an honest fisherman, Mike Hennessey by name.
On Tuesday night they laid him down upon the ice to sleep;
Boreas blew a bitter squall which threw him in the deep.

10 And now he fills a watery grave from home and friends away,
Until the death roll shall be called upon the Judgment Day.
“May the Lord have mercy on his soul,” will be our fervent prayer,
And may he rest in heaven, free from all earthly care.

11 One William Heaton from Harbour Grace, that promising young man,
His parents’ joy and hearts’ delight, describe their grief who can-
To see their dear and darling boy cut down in his bloom;
With heavy sighs and mournful cries they laid him in his tomb.

12 But now he is gone, that gallant boy, and why should they repine?
There is many a one as well as him, have left their friends behind;
There are mothers, wives, and orphans who are left for to complain
For those who in the Greenland sailed and never returned again.

13 Now to conclude and finish, I have a few more words to say.
I hope you all will join me to the Lord to pray
To comfort those that are left behind and to them peace restore
From grief and woe and broken hearts for friends they’ll see no

Source: Greenleaf, Elisabeth Bristol, and Grace Mansfield. 1933. Ballads and Sea Songs of Newfoundland. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, pp 299-300.

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