MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada

Wreck of the Southern Cross

Performed by Eddy Primroy Accession # 78-054 NFLD 1 Tape 14 Track 9
Community: Pouch Cove Audio: Yes
Genre: Ballad / shipwreck

Laws dD36


Transcription

She got up steam the twelfth of March and shortly did embark
To try her fortune in the gulf in charge of Captain Clarke
She carried a hundred seventy men a strong and vigorous race
Some from St. John's and Brigus and more from Harbour Grace

They reached the gulf in early March the whitecoats for to slew
With 17,000 prime young harps killed by her hardy crew
All panned and safely stowed below with colours waving gay
The Southern Cross she left the ice bound out for home that day

She passed near Channel homeward bound as news came out next day
To say a steamer from the gulf she now is on her way
No doubt it is the Southern Cross the operator said
She's looking to have a bumper trip and well down by the head

The last of March the storm came on with blinding snow and sleet
The Portia bound for western ports the Southern Cross did meet
When Captain Connors from the bridge he saw the ship that day
And thinking she would shelter up in St. Mary's Bay

St. Mary's Bay she never reached as news came out next morn
She must have been all night at sea all in that dreadful storm
The S.S. Doyle was soon despatched to search the ocean round
But no sign of that missing ship could anywhere be found

She searched Cape Race and every place until she reached Cape Pine
But of the crew or wreckage the Captain found no sign
So put your trust in providence and trust to Him on high
To send the Southern Cross back home and fill sad hearts with joy

All things do happen for the best but if they're called away
Those brave lads on the Southern Cross out in the storm that day
We trust they reached the Heavenly land and rest with Him on high
Where cares and sorrows are no more but all is peace and joy

Female voice: We're certainly glad to get that one: you're the first person to sing this for us.


Notes

Sources: Mercer 180 ("Southern Cross"); Laws dD36; Greenleaf 1968:281; Peacock 973 ("The Southern Cross "); Doyle 1940:57, 1955: 54, and 1966:41; Leach 202;   Lehr 175; for recordings by Omar Blondahl, Alan Mills, see Taft 94.

History: Two songs about the tragic loss of the Southern Cross are known in Newfoundland. One is attributed to Lizzie C. Rose on an Omar Blondahl recording (Rodeo RLP 5).   The ship was returning to St. John's from sealing on the sea ice in 1914. Lehr and Best note that the ship was last sighed by the Portia. 170 men lost their lives in a season that also saw the loss of a second sealing ship, the Newfoundland. 252 men died in a single storm (Lehr 176). That loss is spoken of in a story collected by Leach from Pattie Maher of Flatrock.

Text notes: The singer narrates the story of the wreck of the sealing ship, the Southern Cross.

Tune notes: Mr. Primroy, who accompanies himself on the guitar, sings a different tune from the one collected by Peacock (in the Codroy Valley). This melody is in a major key, 4/4 metre, with a phrase repetition pattern of "abac" for each stanza.

 

 

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