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Skipper Michael Gill, 1704 (A J O'Rielly)

O'er lovely Bonavista the August night came down,
And stars like gems were gleaming within her azure crown;
The dusky wings of midnight were brooding o'er the scene,
O'er Bonavista's waters and circling hills of green.

Borne by the landward zephyrs, bright wavelets swept the bay,
And moved in dancing ripples near where the Pembroke lay;
Enwrapt the good ship William with her rich freight of train,
And greeted the Society with kisses of the main.

Peace, with her sister Beauty, held all the shores in fee,
And Silence held them close embraced in tranquil sympathy;
On such a night might lovers vow love's promise ever dear,
On such a night but craven heart could hold one thought of fear.

Ere midnight hour had ended, grey mists swept up the bay,
And hung a filmy curtain 'round where the good ship lay;
As with a full enchantment the shore and houses spread,
And Bonavista silent lay a harbour of the dead.

Beware, O Bonavista! Is this a night to sleep?
Unless some guard be watchful, tomorrow babes may weep;
Unless some gallant here be now prepared to fight,
Tomorrow widows well may weep their husbands slain tonight.

D'Ibberville's apt pupil, LaGrange, is on the sea,
His hundred Abenaquis are armed cap-a-pie;
With scalping knife and tomahawk. May God their purpose foil,
Ere these red demons stain with blood fair Bonavista's soil.

Swift swept canoes and shallops to where the Pembroke lay,
As silent as the fog sweeps up on Bonavista Bay;
Then tomahawk and scalping-knife grew dripping red with gore,
And in a few short moments that bloody fight was o'er.

The William and Society with little fight were won,
LaGrange's troop triumphant, the new day just begun;
The cloak of mist had vanished and on the tranquil tide,
The captured ships flung boldly forth the French flag in its pride.

Some sound of oar or paddle reached skipper Michael Gill,
Some startled shriek, some drowning groan, then all again was still;
Then to a youngster of his crew he cried, "Swim swift to land,
And warn Bonavista that danger is at hand.

"Now boldly wrap our mizzen the good old flag we'll drape,
And, boys, bring up your round shot, your canister and grape;
We'll give LaGrange, the valiant, of bitter fight his fill,
But never shall the French flag wave o'er skipper Michael Gill.

"They have the good ship Pembroke with great guns twenty-four,
And on the ship Society there's ten or maybe more;
And we are but fourteen guns, their metal good and rare,
We'll fire three volleys to their one and that will make us square."

For hours the great guns thundered and skipper Michael Gill,
Saw that each gun was pointed with marksmanship and skill;
Then said LaGrange, "This cochon to conquer doth aspire,
So what our cannon cannot do we shall achieve by fire."

So down on skipper Michael the bark Society,
Came blazing in a flame of fire, a fearsome sight to see;
And with the tide the William, her oily freight ablaze,
A spectacle to strike the heart with horror and amaze.

Then skipper Gill, the dauntless, gave proof of whence he came,
As he and his heroic crew strove mid the smoke and flame;
And scarce the danger ended, when, hark! a mighty cheer,
And Bonavista's armed bands upon the hills appear.

Then as the fox takes cover when baying hounds draw near,
And as the shadows vanish when day breaks bright and clear;
So fled LaGrange's soldiers and Abenaquis band,
To scalp, tomahawk and burn elsewhere than Newfoundland.

Now, lasses, give a gay, glad hand, and, lads, your glasses fill,
And give acclaim and drink a toast to skipper Michael Gill;
And if again such dangers e'er threaten Newfoundland,
May we have skippers just as brave the foeman to withstand.

####.... A J O'Rielly ....####
From the Dictionary Of Newfoundland English:
Train - oil rendered from the blubber of whales or from other marine creatures, especially fish; cod oil.

From the French: Cochon - pig.

Notes: This song deals with the planned French and Indian raid on Bonavista, Newfoundland. A J O'Rielly was a magistrate in the Newfoundland Government and was born at Placentia. Captain Michael Gill came from Charlestown, Massachusetts. His sons settled in Newfoundland.



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