#01029
The Newfoundland Sealing Disaster
(Marion Parsons)
See also: I Will Bring You Home (Marion Parsons)
And also: Newfoundland Sealers (Bill Gallaher)
And also: The Newfoundland Disaster
(Kenneth Peacock)
And also: The Newfoundland Disaster
(George Humbey)
And also: Death On The Ice - The Story
(Everett Adams)
And also: Death On The Ice (Margo St John)

In nineteen hundred and fourteen,
with winter soon to melt,
On icy floes the hunt was on
for oil and snow-white pelts;
From outports on the northern shore,
to firms on Water Street,
They bought their gear and claimed their berths
to join the sealing fleet.

The oldest was a wooden wall
they called the Newfoundland,
Her captain green and all too young,
the son of a great man;
She cleared the Narrows in good time,
but stalled up in the ice,
They worked like dogs to break the pans
that held her like a vice.

All patience gone, the captain cried
to Master Watch George Tuff,
"We've been three weeks without a seal,
and b'y, I've had enough!
My father's ship is in the fat,
'tis just three miles or four,
So take the men and join her there,
and pass the night on board."

Five miles they trekked across the ice,
beneath a brooding sky,
And Captain Kean he gave them tea,
then put them overside;
"I'll set you on a patch of seals,
then back where you belong."
And with no more of thought or care,
the iron ship was gone.

Just as our Saviour lay in hell
for three days and two nights,
For so long were the sealing men
forsaken on the ice;
In blinding snow and driving rain
that raged from the southwest,
To freeze the blood of any man
who dared to sleep or rest.

Abide With Me the sealers sang,
and then Lead, Kindly Light
They burned the handles and the rope
to hold away the night;
And Jesse Collins of Hare Bay,
he stepped up to take charge,
And roused the weary to their feet
to dance or box or march.

A brother urged his brother on,
and forced the weak to rise,
And neighbour bit the blinding ice
from off his neighbour's eyes;
While friend would chew the hardtack up
to ease the mouth of friend,
And father took son in his arms
to hide him from the wind.

When Nickolas Morey bowed his head
to make his earthly peace,
He found the strength to bless himself
and died upon his knees;
While others prayed for mercy
from the North Atlantic cold,
That knows no more of mercy
than the enemy of our souls.

Some fell back or slipped away
to meet their fate alone,
Some went on till heart gave out
and fell without a moan;
Some went foolish, cursed and ran,
or stepped into the brine,
Until the sea gives up her dead,
no mortal eye shall find.

And when at last the third day rose,
the midday sun revealed,
The Bellaventure's dumbstruck crew,
who took the men for seals;
They brought the living back on board,
to feed and tend and warm,
And gathered up the mute and still
who perished in the storm.

They headed half-mast to St John's
and there aboard the Belle
Were four and fifty broken men
with awful tale to tell;
And laid in rows along her decks
were threescore souls and ten,
While eight remained beneath the waves
to not return again.

####.... Marion Parsons ©2004 ....####

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