Doerflinger gives the names of four ships, the Joyce M. Smith, Uda F. Corkum, Mahala, and Clayton W. Walters, that were lost with all hands in the gale of August 25, 1927. In fact, a dozen more vessels went down, with nearly 200 fishermen losing their lives, not just the 87 mentioned in the song.
This song borrows its melody from "The Death of Floyd Collins," a tune about a trapped Kentucky cave explorer whose failed rescue became a national radio sensation in 1925.
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Good people, come and listen, a sad story I will tell, Of Eighty-seven fishermen, good men we all know well, Who left their homes in April to sail the raging seas, To reap the ocean's harvest that feedeth you and me.
Their hearts were light within them to hoist those fleecy sails, And soon they left the harbor to catch the pleasant gales, But down on Sable Island, where those angry waves do rage Those eighty-seven fishermen all met their watery graves.
For many miles before them they saw those angry waves, And soon their vessels foundered beneath their sandy graves. The have left us here in sorrow to live and earn our bread And by God's help, good people, I know we'll all be fed.
Their bodies now lie sleeping beneath that quick and rolling sand; Their spirits are in heaven with that bright and happy band. No more they'll hoist those topsails or fight the raging seas, But on that bright eternal day they'll dwell where all is free.
On the ninth day of October, in memory of our dead, Five thousand gathered in Lunenburg, by the band we all were led. The harbor it was scattered with flowers sweet and fair, And all denominations united there in prayer.
To Him who rules us from on high with His almighty hand, Grant to us on this Judgement Day united we may stand Where soul and body meet again, where pain and sorrow cease. O, May we meet together there and dwell in endless peace!