The Water Witch (MacEdward Leach) videos
(Bravery Of Pouch Cove Fishermen)
#1661: YouTube video by bobinpouchcove
©2011 ~ Used with permission ~

All true-born Newfoundlanders, pray hearken unto me,
And hear your messmates tell you all the dangers of the sea;
You all remember Pouch Cove well, and the true sons so brave,
Who saved the crew of the Water Witch so near a watery grave.

On Christmas Eve this craft did leave as loud the winds did roar,
And on a reef she came to grief not far from Pouch Cove shore;
A place well called the Horrid Gulch this schooner headed on,
And in the twinkling of an eye three poor, dear souls were gone.

Two seamen from the Water Witch leaped when they heard the shock,
The rest belong to that doomed ship were huddled on a rock;
To wait for hours through hail and showers as loud the seas did dash,
And see their schooner breaking up hard on the cliff did crash.

Punts, ropes, and lanterns soon were brought by kind and willing hands,
The shrieks of females in distress our fishermen could not stand;
And how to face the Horrid Gulch six hundred feet to go,
To save those souls half dead with cold who waited down below.

Brave Alfred Moores, a Pouch Cove man, "I'll take the lead," he cried,
While 'round his waist strong hempen ropes with heavy knots they tied;
And now strong men are on the top to lower him o'er the cliff,
To dash our hero down below 'neath blinding snow and drift.

Three times they swung him in the dark through blinding drift and cold,
Before his feet could get a place to give him any hold;
At last he found a resting place just 'neath a shelving stone,
Where he could see those souls below and hear each dismal moan.

And now to save this shipwrecked crew his heart is filled with hope,
Six more brave Pouch Cove fishermen like heroes man the rope;
And now a small handline by Moores, he managed for to lower,
Till all the Water Witch's crew are landed safe on shore.

But, hark! Another scream is heard, the people get a shock,
Another female left below to perish on the rock;
When Alfred makes another dash, as loud the wind do roar,
And brings a woman in his arms in safety to the shore.

The news was soon in town next day about the Water Witch,
The whole community got a shock, the poor as well as rich;
The Governor soon sent home word in letters bold and grand,
To tell of the pluck of fishermen belong to Newfoundland.

The Humane Society of Liverpool did very soon send here,
Gold Medals for our fishermen that never knew no fear;
The Governor's Lady pinned them on, those medals rare and rich,
The Pouch Cove men who saved the lives on board the Water Witch.

So here's success to our bold men who risk in storms or breeze,
Their precious lives for saving souls who venture on the seas;
May peace and plenty be their lot this true and sterling band,
Brave Alfred Moores and all the rest belong to Newfoundland.

####.... Author unknown. Traditional Newfoundland song ....####
The above lyrics were sung by Richard Moores [?-1975] of Pouch Cove, NL (son of the song's hero, Alfred Moores) and published in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada © 2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

On an audiotape made immediately before the taping of this song, accession #78-054 NFLD 1 Tape 13 Track 1, MacEdward Leach also collected the story of the Water Witch from the singer's next door neighbour who bore the same name as the singer's father and the hero, Alfred Moores [d.1956]. In the audio taped story, the date of this event is given as November 29, 1875.

The video above was produced in 2010 for the Pouch Cove Heritage Committee by Po Chun Lau, and features a variant of The Water Witch as sung by Pouch Cove native Patrick Moran. The song tells the story of the Water Witch shipwreck in the Horrid Gulch of Pouch Cove. Included in the video are some spectacular photographs of the Horrid Gulch taken by Rennie Sullivan, and other photographs by Bob Brink and Po Chun Lau.

A variant was collected in 1980 from Pius Powers, Sr of Southeast Bight, NL, by Genevieve Lehr and Anita Best and published as #116 in Come And I Will Sing You: A Newfoundland Songbook, pp.197-198 edited by Genevieve Lehr (University of Toronto Press © 1985/2003).

Genevieve Lehr noted that Mr Power learned this song from his Uncle Frank: he presumed the ship left England for Newfoundland but went aground in Pouch Cove, that the loss occurred in 1875, and that she belonged to Cupids. However, Lehr continued, in When Was That? Mosdell says the Water Witch, a Brigus schooner commanded by Captain Spracklin, was lost at Pouch Cove with nine persons on 29 November 1873; eleven lives were saved by Alfred Moore.

See more songs by Lehr and Best

This variant was also recorded by Anita Best (Crosshanded, 1997, Amber Music, Topsail, NL).

See more songs by Anita Best.

A similar variant was published by Gerald S Doyle in Old-Time Songs And Poetry Of Newfoundland: Songs Of The People From The Days Of Our Forefathers, First edition, pp.61-63, 1927.

An earlier variant was printed in St John's in 1905 as Loss Of The Water Witch on pp.24-26 of Murphy's Sealers' Song Book, and in 1912 as Bravery Of Pouch Cove Fishermen on pp.10-11 of Old Songs Of Newfoundland, and also in 1923 again as Loss Of The Water Witch on pp.11-12 of Songs Their Fathers Sung, For Fishermen: Old Time Ditties, all three were published in St John's by James Murphy [1867-1931].

James Murphy's Publisher's Notes:
The loss of the schooner Water Witch occurred near Pouch Cove in 1875; Pouch Cove is distant from St John's about 18 miles. The Water Witch belonged to Cupids, Conception Bay. The rescuers received gold medals for their bravery from England.

Note: H M Mosdell reported in When Was That (The Trade Printers and Publishers, Ltd, 1923) that the Water Witch, a Brigus schooner commanded by Captain Spracklin, sank on November 29, 1875, at Pouch Cove, NL, with the loss of nine lives. Alfred Moores saved eleven.

The video below features a recording by Allison Crowe of Nanaimo, British Columbia and Corner Brook, NL (Newfoundland Vinyl II, 2014 LP CD, Rubenesque Records Ltd, Salt Spring Island, British Columbia).

#2061: YouTube video by Allison Crowe
©2014 ~ Used with permission ~

See more songs by Allison Crowe.

See more songs about NFLD shipwrecks.


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