The Petty Harbour Bait Skiff



1 Ye people all both great and small, I hope you will attend
To those few simple verses that I have lately penned.
They are concerning danger which our poor seamen stand,
While sailing on those stormy waves by the shores of Newfoundland.

2 This happened to be in the summertime in the lovely month of June,
When fields were green, fair to be seen, and valleys were in bloom;
When silent fountains do run clear that’s sent by heaven’s rain,
And the dewy showers they fall at night, to fertilize the plain.

3 We bid adieu unto our friends and those we held most dear,
Being bound for Petty Harbour in the springtime of the year;
The little birds as we sailed on sung o’er the hills and dales,
As Flora from her sporting groves sent forth a pleasant gale.

4 On Saturday we sailed away being in the evening late,
We were bound into Conception Bay all for a load of bait;
The sea-gulls flying in the air and pitching on the shore,
But little we thought ‘twould be our lot to see our friends no more.

5 The weather being fine we lost no time until we were homeward bound,
The whales were sporting in the deep and swordfish swimming ’round;
Where Luna bright shone forth that night to calm amidst the sea,
And the stars shone bright to guide us right upon our rough pathway.

6 When we came ’round the North Head a rainbow did appear,
Every indication of a storm was drawing near;
Old Neptune riding on the waves to the wind’ard of us lay,
You’d think the ocean was on fire in Petty Harbour Bay.

7 We shook our reefs and trimmed our sails, across the Bay did stand;
The sun did rise all circlized with streams down o’er the land.
The clouds lay in the atmosphere for our destruction met,
As Boreas blew a heavy squall our boat was overset .

8 But Douglas Chafe that hero brave and champion on that day
He boldly launched his boat with speed and quickly put to sea;
He saved young Menchington from the wreck, by his undaunted skill,
His offers would be all in vain but for kind heaven’s will.

9 When the sad news arrived next day to dear old St John’s town,
There was crying and lamenting on the streets both up and down;
Crying and lamenting, crying for those they bore,
In the bottomless waves they found their graves whom they never shall see no more.

10 Out of that fine young crew you know, there was one escaped being drowned,
He was brought to Petty Harbour where good comfort there he found;
He’s now on shore and safe once more with no cause to complain,
He fought old Neptune up and down whilst on the stormy main.

11 John French was our commander, Mick Sullivan second hand,
All of the rest were brave young men, belong to Newfoundland;
Six brave youths to tell the truth were buried in the sea,
But Menchington spared by Providence to live a longer day.

12 Your heart would ache all for their sake if you were standing by,
To see them drowning one by one, and no relief was nigh;
Struggling with the stormy waves all in their youth and bloom,
And at last they sank to rise no more, all on the eighth of June.

Source:  Lehr, Genevieve, ed. Come and I Will Sing You. St. John’s: Breakwater (Toronto: University of Toronto Press), 1985, p.153.

Another version can be found at GEST Songs of Newfoundland and Labrador, including a notated version and MIDI recording.

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