#01586
The Spring Of '97 (Kenneth Peacock)

The spring of 'ninety-seven boys,
for if we never knew,
The hardship of the frozen pan,
we suffered with them, too.

We struck the seals off Cabot Isle
five days out from port;
We thought to have no long delay
and loading would be sport.

Eleven thousand prime young harps
we put on board that day;
And sixteen thousand more
that night we safely stowed away.

Next day a storm broke off the ice,
which ripped through our port bow;
To save a life it was enough
for each man to look how.

We suffered awful hardship then,
when often cold and wet;
And all the dangers of that spring
we never will forget.

'Twas bad enough till death it came,
made our condition worse;
For one of our brave harbour men
died on the twenty-first.

When doing duty like a man,
our comrade stopped to fall;
From which he suffered much too dear,
till death did give a call.

Then ship-mate Jim Sparkerell
such hardship could not stand;
And on the twenty-ninth he sighed,
passed on to a better land.

'Tis on the second of April
poor Swain did pass away;
Soon followed poor Mike Sullivan,
belong to Caplin Bay.

He bravely fought to keep up fit,
to see his friends once more,
But never will his footsteps tread
upon the Southern Shore.

Oh, Newfoundland, in north and south,
around in every bay,
Take pity on our poor countrymen
caught up in this sad way.

They bravely died in duty's path,
and God will mercy shed,
Those men who strived so hard on earth
to earn a crust of bread.

####.... Author unknown. Original Newfoundland ballad ....####
Collected by Kenneth Peacock in 1951 from Mrs Way of Bonavista, NL, and published in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Volume 3, pp.976-977, by the National Museum of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

A variant was also published in Gerald S Doyle's Old-Time Songs And Poetry Of Newfoundland: Songs Of The People From The Days Of Our Forefathers (Third edition, p.74, 1955).

Kenneth Peacock noted that the name of the sealing vessel is not given in the ballad, so it would be difficult to trace its origin. The 'harps' in verse three are a species of Greenland seal with a dark harp-shaped marking on the back fur. This is one of several native songs from the National Museum's collection given to Gerald S Doyle for his 1955 booklet Old-Time Songs Of Newfoundland.

From: Sullivans Of Calvert (Caplin Bay), Newfoundland:
Michael Joseph Sullivan "Mike" was born about August 1875 in Caplin Bay, NL. He was christened on 15 August 1875 in Holy Trinity Parish, Ferryland, NL. He died on 6 April 1897 in the sea. The cause of death was diphtheria. He was buried in Ferryland Roman Catholic Cemetery. Mike died while at the seal hunt in April 1897. He and his cousin Thomas Swain, of Caplin Bay, were shipmates on the Aurora out of St John's, NL. Tom Swain died on April 2, 1897, and Mike Sullivan died a few days later on April 6, 1897, both from diphtheria. Their deaths are mentioned in the Newfoundland folk song The Spring of 97.

From: The S Y Aurora... All That Remains and The Ships List:
The Aurora was built in Dundee, Scotland in 1876 for the sealing trade and spent over a quarter of a century up until 1910 as part of the Newfoundland sealing fleet. C T Bowrings & Company of St John's, NL, owned her from 1876-1897. She was 165 ft. long, with a beam of 30 ft., built of strong timbers and fitted both for steam and sail. She was bought in 1910 by Douglas Mawson to carry his scientific party to and from Australia and the Antarctic continent during the years 1911 to 1914. On a trip from Newcastle, New South Wales in 1917 to Iquique, Chile with a cargo of coal, the Aurora disappeared with all hands and without a trace. She was posted missing at Lloyd's of London on the 2nd of January 1918, a suspected casualty of the First World War.



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