#03395
The Union From St John's (Best/Morgan) videos
See also: The Union From St John's (Peacock)
And also: The Wreck Of The St John (Leach)
#2123 YouTube video by MrJohnpiano
©2009 ~ Used with permission ~

Ye landsmen and ye landsmen bold,
It's little do yas know,
What us poor sailors do endure,
When the stormy winds do blow.

The eighteenth day of November past,
A heavy gale came on;
The heavens above looked angry on us,
And the clouds o'ercast the sun,

The wind about east and east-sou'd, me boys,
And heavy showers of hail;
The night bein' dark and stormy, me boys,
'Twas on the lee shore we did sail.

Our captain gave us orders,
And orders we must obey;
He said, "You had better get forward, me boys,
Your foresail to lower away."

We tried to reef our mainsail in,
It really couldn't be done;
It was under a three-reef foresail, me boys,
Five leagues o'er the sea she run.

Once more she gently rises,
Which caused all hands to say:
"God bless our noble vessel, me boys,
Once more she heads asea."

'Bout three o'clock in the morning,
We received a dreadful shock;
We spied a craft on her beam-ends,
A mile below Bellow's Rock.

We boarded the wreck in the morning,
A dismal sight to behold!
Three frozen seamen lashed to her pumps,
Five more in her cabin lay cold.

And now they're gone, God bless them,
My boys, your race is won;
A widow must weep for her husband dear,
And a mother her darling son.

She is the Union from St John's,
How well I knows her mould;
And every time I thinks on her this strand,
It makes my blood run cold.

She is the Union from St John's,
Right well I knows her name;
And every night as I lay on my bed,
I can hear the young widows complain.

####.... Author unknown. Traditional Newfoundland ballad ....####
Recorded by Anita Best and Pamela Morgan (All The Best: Folk Music Of St John's Newfoundland, trk#5, 1988 CD, Pigeon Inlet Productions, Torbay, NL, recorded at Dadyeen Studios, St John's, NL, produced by Kelly Russell). This CD has the distinction of being the first compact disc ever made in Newfoundland.

A variant was collected as The Union From St John's by Kenneth Peacock in 1958 from Arthur Nicolle [1900-1971] of Rocky Harbour, NL, and published in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Volume 3, pp.978-980, by The National Museum Of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

A variant was also collected in 1951 from Francis M (Frank) O'Brien [1917-1998] of Trepassey, NL, and published as The Wreck Of The St John in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada © 2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

Two variants were collected, one in 1976 from Moses (Uncle Mose) Harris [1911-?] of Lethbridge, Bonavista Bay, NL, and one in 1980 from Phillip Pius Power, Sr [1912-1993] of South East Bight, NL, by Genevieve Lehr and Anita Best and published as #112, The Wreck Of The Union in Come And I Will Sing You: A Newfoundland Songbook, pp.190-193, edited by Genevieve Lehr (University of Toronto Press © 1985/2003).

Genevieve Lehr noted that an American broadside ballad The Wreck Of The Brig Union was discovered by Fannie Hardy Eckstrom and Mary Winslow Smyth and printed in their book Minstrelsy of Maine in 1927. According to them, the song was written in the early 1800s. However, the ship could possibly have been from Newfoundland since there were two (and possibly more) wrecks recorded of ships named the Union from Newfoundland around that time. Lehr also noted that Mr Power's version is the closest of the two to the original broadside, which has Mount Desert's Rock instead of Mount Bernard Rock. Mr Power learned the song from his Uncle Dave Brewer when he was but a child of nine or ten. 'When Uncle Dave got a drop in, this was the song he would always sing ... it was the only one he had.'

GEST notes that the Moses Harris variant dates the gale as 18 November, the same as Arthur Nicolle's variant, while Pius Power, Sr dates the gale as 14 January. The date does not correspond, so whether or not it pertains to the Union in this song is questionable, but a page-long column in an old St John's newspaper, entitled Memorable Springs and Other Information, Seal Fishery, has the following to say concerning the year 1833: "Celebrated for the loss of the schooner Union, Capt Jno Delaney, with a picked crew of 28 men from Trinity; built by Charles Newhook of New Harbour for Jno B Garland, merchant; capsized while under full sail. April 23rd, the schooners Active and Avon took some of her seals and towed her for 2 days, but had to let her go."
Source: Monograph entitled Newhook Master Shipbuilders by N C Crewe, Research Officer, Newfoundland Archives, St John's, 28 May 1965.


See more songs about NFLD shipwrecks.

The video below features a live performance by Figgy Duff of a variant Pamela Morgan learned from Moses Harris, at the Fifth Annual Newfoundland Folk Festival in St John's Pippy Park on opening day June 27, 1981.

#2354 YouTube video by gdgest
©2013 ~ Used with permission ~

See more songs by Figgy Duff.


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