MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada

The Prisoner of Newfoundland

Performed by Monica Rossiter Accession # 78-054 NFLD 1 Tape 7A Track 7
Community: Cape Broyle Audio: Yes
Genre: Newfoundland Ballad / lament

Transcription

Ye lads and lasses of Newfoundland come listen to my sad tale,
While I relate the hardships attending St. John's jail,
And being a stranger in this land I'll do the best I can,
To relate the hardships I endure in the prison of Newfoundland

On the twenty-fourth of October to this country I first came,
On a British brig from Baltimore the Peregrine by name,
And being consigned to Harvey's wharf a cargo for to land,
Which bitterly caused me to regret on my voyage to Newfoundland

The day of my trial it would grieve your heart full sore,
To see how Daniel Hagerty so falsely on me swore,
Judge Carter passed my sentence those words to me did say,
Six months on hard bread and cold water in the penitentiary.

My sentence it was passed they marched me off to jail,
Down in the penitentiary the winter for to stay,
Where I found comrades plenty as you may understand,
Which bitterly caused me to regret on my voyage to Newfoundland

One night as I lay fast asleep all in my prison cell
I dreamt I was in old Ireland the land I used to dwell
Those pleasant dreams disturbed my rest as you may understand
I woke quite broken-hearted in the prison of Newfoundland

The prison was situated by the side of a lovely pond,
Often as I sat and sang like a mocking bird alone,
Watching the lads and lasses how they used to sport and play,
Through the iron bars of my window in the penitentiary.

And now my song is to a close as you may understand,
Johnny Doyle it is my name old Ireland is my land,
I served my time on a Black Ball line since ever I went to sea,
I went to sea and now at last I am caught fast in the penitentiary.


Notes

Sources: Mercer 169 ("Prison of Newfoundland"); Blondahl 1964: 46; Doyle 1955: 48; recorded by Omar Blondahl ("Prison of Newfoundland") in 1959 for Banff (RBS 1142); Taft 57. Leach collected another version of this from Eddy Primroy of Pouch Cove

History:

Text notes: A prisoner's lament

Tune notes: A 6/8 metre tune in "abb'a" form (note the cadence variant of "b'"). The tonality is major. Both performers offer the same tune with some variation.

 

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