MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada

The Spanish Captain

Performed by James Maher Accession # 78-054 NFLD 1 Tape 16 Track 3
Community: Flatrock Audio: Yes
Genre: Ballad / shipwreck Laws dD34 Musical notation available

Transcription

Ye muses mine now do combine and listen to my song
It's a mournful lamentation and it won't detain you long
It's about the Spanish Captain as you might understand
Who left his native country to sail for Newfoundland

His wife she stepped on board with him dressed up in silks so fine
She had a dark and rolling eye like diamonds they did shine
Her skin was like the snow blossom that falls before the rain
And her hair in ringlets hanging down Rosanna was her name

Her daughter followed after her just like some angel bright
She had a tall and slender waist dressed up in muslin white
Her cheeks they bloomed like roses from a Spanish town she came
She was fairer than Rosanna whom they called the flower of Spain

On the fourteenth day of July last from Lisbon we set sail
With the headland in our company with a sweet and pleasant gale
But the headland in our company no longer could she stay
For she got in that very night that we were cast away

The Marguerite was our ship's name she was a splendid boat
With lofty yards and pitch pine spare she was scarce nine years afloat
With a reckoning and good conduct our due course we did steer
Till the Boatswain cried, "There's land ahead, I think it is Cape Spear."

The farmers on the southern shore as you might understand
Were burning turf upon the ground to fertilize their land
The heavy smoke from out the town filled all those bights and bays
Said our captain in a flowing voice, "We leave our ship in stays."

Then we squared our yards ran across the bay that dark and stormy night
Every man was in his station but no one saw the light
The night was dark with heavy smoke and dismal looked the sky
When in a place called Barren Rock we ran her high and dry

Oh the fourteenth of September last it was a dismal sight
All hands were in the water at twelve o'clock that night
But the captain's wife and daughter no longer can remain
To enjoy their wealth and happiness left after them in Spain

Our Captain was a Spaniard a man of note and fame
With courage bold undaunted to cross the raging main
And may the realms of Glory their precious souls receive
Make a place for them in heaven where St. Peter holds the keys


Notes

Sources: Mercer 180; Laws dD34;Blondahl 1964: 87; Doyle 1940: 38 and 1966: 63; Greenleaf 1968: 275; Lehr 176; for recordings by Omar Blondahl, Alan Mills, see Taft 94. A different tune from the one on this website was recorded by Anita Best on Crosshanded (Amber, 1997). Roud 4079.

History: Newfoundland song. The event described in this ballad is probably the loss of the Mayaquezanna (called here the Margrietta), a Spanish brig lost at Blackhead, near Cape Spear, on 14 August 1876. Both the captain and his wife were drowned (Lehr 177).

Text notes: A Spanish captain and his family bound for Newfoundland are shipwrecked near Cape Spear. The singer was one of the crew.

Tune notes: Contemporary singer/folklorist, Anita Best, describes her version of this song as "typical of the 'heave-it-out-of-ya' type of singing so favoured by many Placentia Bay singers" (Lehr 177). The version performed here is sung freely with changes of metre. Last two verses difficult to understand because of whistle on tape.

 

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