MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada

Spirit Song On George’s Banks

Mrs. T. Ghaney NFLD 2 Tape 14A Track 6
Fermeuse Audio:

Smile if you got a mind to or p'raps you'll lend an ear
A boy and man together nigh on for forty years
I have sailed across the waters from the western banks to grand
I was in some herring vessel that went from Newfoundland

And icy storms l tell you where t'ings looked kinda blue
And then somehow or other l was lucky and got through
But I’ll not brag however l won't say much but then
I'm not much easier frightened then most of other men

But one dreary night l speak of we were off of the shore a ways
I never will forget it in all my mortal days
When in my dim dark watch l felt a chilling dread
It bowled me down as if l hard one calling from the dead

When on the decks there clambered pale sailors one by one
A dozen drippin' sailors just wait till l am done
Right on the decks they clambered but not a voice was heard
They moved about together but neither spoke a word

Their faces pale and sea-wet shone ghostly through the night
Each took his place as freely as if he had a right
And Eastern worked the vessel till land was just in sight
Or rather l should say sir the lighthouse tower's light

And then those ghostly sailors moved through the rail again
They vanished in the mist where sun can't shine on them
I know not any reason in truth why they should come
To navigate our vessel till land was just in sight

They are the same poor fellows l hope God rest their souls
Where our old ship ran under that time near George's shoals
And now you've got my story it's just the way l say
For l believes in spirits since that time anyway

(Speaks) : I don't believe that happened.


Sources: Mercer 1979: 180; Greenleaf, 1968:227 (The Ghostly Seamen); Leach, 1965:244 (The Ghostly Fishermen); Peacock, 1965: 873, 874.
From the Memorial University Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA) Song Index and Song Annotation Collection: Adeg, Eric MUNFLA 73-104 (Wreck of the Georgie’s Banks); Cormier, Gerald MUNFLA 72-153 (Ghostly Sailors); Dupree V. MUNFLA 69-3 (The Ghostly Crew); Halpert, Herbert MUNFLA 71-50 (Twelve Ghostly Seamen); Healey, Marigol MUNFLA 73-124 (The Ghostly Crew); Swed, John F. MUNFLA 64-16 (The Ghostly Crew); West, Eric MUNFLA 78-236 (The Ghostly Seaman, Georges Banks).

Text: A sailor on night watch describes how ghostly seaman board and charter his ship safely home one night from the Georges’ Banks. He believes them to be the same men his vessel had rammed and sunk on a previous voyage.

Tune: The text is through composed and the melody repeats with each verse. The meter is 4/4. The key is F major with a missing seventh degree. There is a strong emphasis on B but it resolves to F.

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