MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada

The Water Witch

Performed by Richard Moores Accession # 78-054 NFLD 1 Tape 13 Track 2
Community: Pouch Cove Audio: Yes
Genre: Ballad / shipwreck Musical notation available

Transcription

On Christmas Eve the craft did leave as loud the winds did roar
And on a reef she came to grief not far from Pouch Cove shore
A place we'll call the Horrid Gulch a Schooner headed on
And in the twinkle of an eye three poor dear souls were gone

A place we'll call the Horrid Gulch six hundred feet or more
To save the souls half dead with cold who waited down before
Brave Alfred Moores the Pouch Cove man, "We'll take the lead," he cried
While round his waist strong hempen rope in heavy knot did tie

While strong men on the hilltop stood to lower him over cliff
And that's our hero down below 'neath blinding snow and drifts
Once more then a scream was heard the people got the shock
Once more it is a female all standing on the rock

Then Alfred made another dash while angry seas did roar
And brought that woman in his arms all safely to the shore

(speaks) That's all I knows

[tape stops and starts]

The news was soon in town next day about the Water Witch
The whole community got a shock the poor as well as rich

(speaks) That's all I knows of it.


Notes

Sources: Mercer 191 ("The Bravery of Pouch Cove Fishermen"); Doyle 1927: 61, 1966:78; Murphy 1905: 24; Recorded by Anita Best on Crosshanded (Amber, 1997).

History: The Pouch Cove ship, the Water Witch, struck a cliff and sank on November 29, 1875. Anita Best notes that "although some of the facts in the song are askew, the story unfolds as it should and the heroes are honoured as heroes should be" (liner notes, Crosshanded ).

Text notes: The story of this daring rescue is related from the perspective of one of the fishermen, Alfred Moores, and Leach collected this version from his son . This song immediately followed the story of the event as told by the protagonist's son.

Tune notes: This beautiful mixolydian mode tune is usually sung with a great deal of rhythmic freedom. Bruno Nettl, the transcriber of the tune, has tried to convey some of the singer's ornamentation. The tune on this website is not the same as the one recorded by Anita Best.

 

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