The Ghostly Crew

You may smile if you're a mind to, but perhaps you'll lend an ear
Like men and boys together, well neigh for fifty year
Who've sailed upon the ocean in summer's pleasant days
Likewise in stormy winter when the howling wind do rage

I've tossed about on Georges, been fishing in the Bay,
Down south in early summer-most anywhere would pay.
I've been in different vessels to the Western Bank and Grand
Likewise in herring vessels that sail to Newfoundland.

There I saw rough times, I tell you, when things look[ed] rather blue
Somehow I have been lucky and always have got through.
I ain't no boast, however-I won't say much, but then
I wasn't easily frightened like most of other men.

One night as we were sailing, beware of [we were off] land a way
I never shall forget it until my dying day-
It was in our grand dog [the dim dark] watches I felt a chilly dread
Come over me as though I heard one calling from the dead.

Right o'er our rail came climbing, all silent, one by one,
A dozen hardy sailors. Just wait till I am done.
Their faces pale and sea-worn, all ghostly through the night
Each fellow took his station as if he had a right.

They moved about together till land did heave in sight,
Or rather, I should say so, the lighthouse threw its light
[lighthouse tower's light] ;
And then those ghostly sailors all to the rail as one,
They vanished like the morning dew after the rising sun.

Those were the same poor fellows-I hope God bless their souls
That our old craft run under that night on Georges Shoals.
Well, now my song is ended; it is just as I have said [just as I say]
I do believe in spirits, from that I'm to be led [since that time
anyway]

Version I, from Harry L. Marcy, Gloucester (1874)
From Songs of the Sailor and Lumberman by William Main Doerflinger (1951, '72, '91)

You may smile if you're a mind to, but perhaps you'll lend an ear
I am, man and boy together, well on for fifty year.
I've tossed about the ocean through summer pleasant days
And though the stormy winters when the howling winds do rage

I've tossed about on Georges, went fishing in the Bay,
Out South in early summer-anywhere would pay.
I've been in different seasons on the Western Bank and Grand;
I've been in herring vessels bound down for Newfoundland.

There I saw storms, I tell you, and times looked mighty blue.
However, l've been lucky and always got safe through.
I ain't no brag, however-I won't say more, but then
I ain't no easier frightened than the most of other men.

One night when we were sailing we were off shore a way-
I never shall forget it in all my mortal days-
It was in that grand dark water I felt a chill of dread
Come over me as if I heard one calling from the dead.

When right over the rail they clambered, all silent, one by one,
A dozen dripping sailors. Just wait till I am done.
Their faces, pale and sea-wet, shone ghostly through the night
Each feller took his station as if he had a right.

They moved about before us till land was just in sight,
Or rather-I should say so-the light was Tower Light;
And then those ghostly sailors moved to the rail straightway
And vanished like a mystic [mist scud] before the break of day

Then we sailed right into harbor, and every mother's son
Can tell you this same story, the same as I have done.
The trip before the other-we were on Georges then
[We] ran down another vessel and sank her and her men.

These were the same poor fellers-I hope God rest their souls
That our old craft ran over that time on Georges Shoals.
So now you've heard my story; it is just as I say.
I do believe in spirits from that time to this day.

Version II, from Capt. Bernie Bell, Nova Scotia
From Songs of the Sailor and Lumberman by William Main Doerflinger (1951, '72, '91)
Tags: Shipwreck
Laws Index: D16
DT Index: 2237, 2238