Now many a man from the New Found Land, when the winter wind did roar,
Had sailed in coastal vessels around the rocky settin' shore;
In January, 1912, Captain Kearley in command,
Of the schooner called John Harvey from Belleoram, Newfoundland.
Well, the wind did from the northeast blew the worst storm of the year,
The John Harvey sailed from Gloucester, bound for the isle St. Pierre;
She was loaded with general cargo and loud the winds did roar,
On the tenth of January the John Harvey went ashore.
Well, the captain gave orders to his crew their vessel to dismast,
With its lifeboat frozen on the deck, the sea swept fore and aft;
Said Captain Kearley to his crew, "My boys it is no use,
I'm afraid that we are doomed to die on the shores of Gabarus."
And the young John put a rope he took and tied around his waist,
Said he, "I'll swim for the nearest land," and the icy foam he faced;
Bitter cold was that winter night, the seas rolled mountain high,
And the waves then battered by the shore with the brave Belleoram boy.
Now the north wind blew a hurricane, and the winds were all bitter cold,
It would chill the heart of this sailor lad, a hero brave and bold,
Battered by the angry sea, he at last the shore did reach,
And with his badly frozen hands made the rope fast to the beach.
And now the crew of the Harvey got ashore, there were six of them all told,
They owe their lives to God above and that sailor boy so bold;
John Keeping and that brave young Foote, their young hearts overcome,
Died on the shores of Gabarus far from their native home.
Good people of Belleoram with you we'll sympathize,
Don't mourn for those brave sailor lads for heaven was their prize;
And all you brave young sailor men think of those noble youths,
Who died away from their native land on the shores of Gabarus.
####.... Author unknown. Original Newfoundland song ....####
This variant recorded by the Dorymen (A Musical Catch, trk#3, 1973 LP, Marathon Records, Toronto, Ontario); (Tiny Red Light, trk#5, 1980 LP, The Great Canadian Music Company, Toronto, Ontario); and (Tiny Red Light, trk#3, 1999 CD, Heritage Music, Scarborough, Ontario); and (Tiny Red Light, trk#3, 2003 CD, Heritage Music, New Market, Ontario).
Kenneth Peacock noted this song is another example of the numerous native shipwreck ballads from the south coast of Newfoundland. Small boats like the John Harvey often get contracts to carry general cargo from Canadian and American ports to places in Newfoundland and the offshore French islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon. Belleoram is in Fortune Bay on Newfoundland's south coast, and Gabarus is on the east coast of Cape Breton. "Keeping" is a common south coast name.
Stella Mann in her Web page, Gull Cove, Cape Breton - Remembered documents that the loss of the John Harvey on January 10, 1912, is well remembered there because of a lengthy poem written about this disaster. The village school children memorized this poem and not only recited it, but sang it after it was set to a well-known tune. She also fills in some missing details such as the schooner master's full name was Captain George Kearley; the John Harvey went ashore at Winging Point, inside Guion Island on the outside beaches of Gabarus; and the hero, John Keeping, was fifteen years old.