#02091
SS Vestris (MacEdward Leach)

Proudly she sailed from New York City,
Bound to a land o'er the sea;
There on her decks stood wives and sweethearts,
Children with hearts gay and free.

Proudly she sped o'er the deep blue water,
No thoughts of care or of fear;
For there on her decks stood Captain Carey,
A seaman of many's a year.

Then came a storm that struck the Vestris,
Wild waves going mountains high;
And in her side a hole was pounded,
They all knew that death it was nigh.

Slowly she sank as her captain he waited,
Hoping his good ship to save;
When but too late he sent the message,
The Vestris was doomed to her grave.

Sad was the cries of men and women,
Mothers held their babes on high;
Brave men who fought to save their loved ones,
Lifeboats that sank in the night.

Great was the toll of Iife that was taken,
Husbands and wives torn apart;
Many's the home with loved one's missing,
Many's the sad breakin' heart.

There on her bridge stood her grey-haired captain,
Waiting for death to perform;
Well do we know that someone blundered,
We must forgive after all.

For we are adrift on life's briny ocean,
Where we are drifting apart;
Well do we know that someone blundered,
We must forgive after all.

####.... Author unknown. Variant of a traditional ballad ....####

Collected in 1951 from Joseph A (Joe) Sutton [1894-?] of St Shott's, NL, and incorrectly published as SS Vesteris in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada © 2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

A variant was collected in 1949 from J Stillman Muise of Yarmouth, Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia, on a sound recording by Helen Creighton titled Sinking Of The Vestris (The Sailing Of The Vestris) archived at Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management, record number 1315, location number AR 5157, AC 2269, MF number 289.258.

From Blue Star On The Web:

The SS Vestris was a passenger and cargo liner built by Workman Clarke & Co Ltd of Belfast, Ireland, for the Lamport & Holt Line. She weighed 10,660 gross tons, had twin screw propulsion, a speed of 15 knots, and could carry 280 first class, 130 second class, and 200 third class passengers with a crew of 250. Launched on May 16, 1912, Vestris made her maiden voyage on September 19, 1912, and was chartered in 1922 to Royal Mail, sailing between New York and Buenos Aires.

Vestris left New York November 10, 1928, with 129 passengers and 196 crew. The next day she ran into a severe storm and developed a starboard list, caused by a partially open coal port four feet above the water line according to testimony later given during the inquiry. The list worsened as first the cargo and then the coal bunkers shifted. An SOS was sent out on November 12, some 200 miles off Hampton Roads, Virginia, and the ship was abandoned. At 1400 hours she fell on her side and sank. Some 112 of the 325 onboard were lost.

Adverse press publicity and public outcry caused Lamport & Holt, already feeling the effects of the deepening depression, to withdraw from the New York service and lay up many of their vessels. It did, however, have its benefits for future seamen and passengers as it influenced life preserver development. It led to the convening of an International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) in London in the following year. Rescuers who responded to the Vestris sinking testified that they found many bodies floating face down, even though they were wearing cork life vests. As a result, a US Navy Captain urged that kapok life jackets be required for the merchant marines, because they kept an unconscious individual's face and head above the water. This resulted in the first SOLAS, agreed in 1929, to win general acceptance by all seafaring nations of any importance.

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