MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada

The Wild Shore

Kate McCarthy NFLD 2 Tape 15A Track 5
Renews Audio:

Down by a wild shore, where I careless did wander
One Saturday evening, when calm was the air
I spied a fair maid with a babe on her arms
She clinging to a rock, and her grief l declare.

With sorrowful anguish this maid she was complaining
Saying, "Willie, dearest Willie, turn home safe to me,"
Three times she exclaimed, "Will l e'er see you more?
I’m afraid tender Willie lies under the sea."

From the quays of Dunbartlett, the steam packet sailed away
Bound down for Liverpool on Wednesday sailed away
The weather being clear and the land disappearing
It 's hearts they were merry both cheerful and gay.

The night coming on, it looked something dark and dreary
Our barque between the billows was tossed to and fro
The captain cried, "My b'ys look ahead for a lighthouse.
I’m afraid this very night we will all suffer sore."

Some on their bended knees for mercy loud imploring
While more they lay speechless through hope and despair
Seas loudly roaring and the sailors all swearing
No sooner saw the danger when they mocked at their prayers.

My Willie, he stood by me to guard and protect me
While my helpless infant I pressed to my breast
Craving for assistance, was no assistance did came near us
Come all you tender Christians, think on our distress.

We hoist out our small boat unto the foaming ocean
And into one of them got Willie and I
But before we reached the shore, our boat was overwhelmed
And into the deep forty bodies did lie.

My Willie, being courageous, from the wreck he returned home
And landed him safe on an islander’s shore
He ventured his sweet life for to save his aged father
At last I am doomed to behold him no more.

Now I’m left alone, a discontented widow,
Twelve months in wedlock and, as you might plainly see,
I am begging my bread amongst hard-hearted strangers
May the heavens look down on the orphan and me.


Text: A young mother is found on the shore holding an infant and grieving for her lost husband Willie.   She tells her tale of shipwreck.   Once they landed on an island, Willie went back to save his father, but was never seen again.   Now she is a poor young mother and widow, who must beg among strangers.

Tune: The text is through composed and the melody repeats with each verse.   The last word is spoken. Speaking, instead of singing a final word or phrase is generally thought to indicate Irish influence on the singer or song. The meter is a slow 6/8.   The key is D-flat major.

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