Dalhousie University Archives

Nova Scotia Ballads

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The Wreck of the Atlantic

Dear Friends, come hear the mournful tale,
The less which we deplore,
Of the gallent ship “Atlantic1” wrecked
On Nova Scotia’s shore.
A most terrific accident
Befell that fated ship,
As she approached those rocky shores,
On her way across the deep.
The sun had sunk behind the hills,
Night spread her wings around,
A night that will remembered be,
For many a year to come.
Alas! that ship, that noble ship,
That had the ocean crossed,
Upon that lonely Prospect2 shore,
That night was wrecked and lost.
With full a thousand soule on board,
The captain3 had no fear,
And heeded not the rocky coast,
Which he was drawing near.
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Till oh alas! it was too late,
The final shock was given.
That noble ship had struck the rock,
Amidships she was riven.
The terror-stricken souls on board,
O! who could give them aid!
Unto each other looked for help,
Each praying to be saved.
Numbers overboard were washed,
And perished in the deep,
While others, frozen with the cold,
Died on the sinking ship.
Poor helpless women down below,
Of whom not one was saved,
Dear little children too,
All met a watery grave.
Amongst the women there were two,
Beneath the waves that night,
Had each of them a little babe,
That scarce had seen the light.
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A lady with her babe in arms,
Had reached the deck, we’re told,
With nothing but her night clothes on,
To shield her from the cold.
To save her life, her tender form
Was fastened to a mast,
Where ten long hours she remained,
Before she breathed her last.
And ere she died, her little babe
Was swept into the sea,
What suffering did that mother bear
In these hours of agony!
The captain in that trying hour,
Spoke kindly to the men,
Saying “Be calm!” whilst angry waves
Swept furiously over them.
One Mr. Stewart, a gentleman,
Quite frantic with despair
From cabin came, and in his arms,
His little daughter bars.
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And to one Ellery he said,
“Pray, Charlie, take my child,
That I may go my wife to seek.”
That billows raging wild.
And as the steward gared on the child,
And saw her face for fair,
His thoughts went quickly to his home,
He had one like her there.
The father did the mother seek,
But neither one came back.
The angry waves soon swept them,
From off the sinking wreck.
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Poor suffering little innocent,
It cried out “Papa come!”
Its clothes were thin, just taken from
Its little bed so warm.
It cried “Papa” a short time,
But Papa never came,
Expiring in the steward’s arms,
in agony and pain.
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Its little soul to Heaven flew
To call its papa there.
I hope they hand in hand will walk
Through heavenly mansions fair.
Among the rest of these gallant lads,
Who ricked a watery grave,
And stirred up those around him,
The ship-wrecked men to save,
Was that kind and loving clergyman,
Mr. Ancient4 is his name,
Whose deeds deserve to be enrolled
Upon the roll of fame.
He says, “My men, come take the boat,
And try whom we can save.”
He boldly took the foremost park,
The bravest of the brave.
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Those hardy men gave such help,
Deserve the highest praise.
We’ll ne’er forget their noble deeds,
As this thankful song we raise.
Third officer Brady, a brave man,
Swam quickly to the shore,
And quickly sent a line a board,
To help the others o’er.
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The kind hearted fishermen
Did gladly them receive,
Giving them freely of their store,
Supplying all their need.
Among the rest of these gallant lads,
Was rescued from the wreck,
Was James Henley5, a brave lad,
Who boldly struggled to the deck.
Bereft6 of all he had that night,
His father, mother, brothers four,
He , with help from stranger men,
Got safely to the shore.
Kind friends then took him to their home,
His wants they did supply,
Strangers with the pity in their hearts,
Beheld the orphan boy.
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When he survived in Halifax,
Warm welcome he received,
And now we leave him journeying home
With his sister dear to live.
Oh cruel rocks that sank our ship!
Oh rocky roof sunk low!
How could you part so many a friend!
Why did you cause such woe!
That goodly ship that proudly sailed,
One hour before the shock,
Why did you not keep far away,
And shun that sunken wreck!
Oh, never may those cruel rocks
Another victim gain!
May lightships guard our rocky coasts,
For those who cross the main!
To those who’ve wandered far away,
We give a Christian grave.
Our joy would have been greater,
Had we the power to save.
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Next morning when the sun arose,
As the angry billows swelled,
The people on the Prospect shore,
A frightful sight beheld.
The rocks around were strewn with dead,
And as each wave broke o’er,
It bore its burden to be laid
With sorrow on the shore.
Both men and women, young and old,
With clothes and flesh all torn,
Upon those sharp and craggy rocks,
The angry storm had thrown.
A mother with her little babe,
Clasped tightly to her breast,
Upon the tangled sea-weed lay,
Gone to her long, long rest.
And all who came to see the sight,
With heartfelt grief bemoaned
The fate of those who left their homes
To cross the ocean foam.
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For to wander far away
In a foreign land to die,
To strangers owe a burial place,
No friend close an eye.
With all our friends around us,
We close our eyes in sleep,
Our thoughts will often wander
Across the dreary deep,
In grief for those who closed their eyes,
No thoughts of death were near,
But to wake a-sinking in the deep,
Shrieks sounding in their ears.
So it is with us, my loving friends,
There’s breakers all around,
And in an unexpected hour,
The last great trump may sound.
The shrieks and groans and cried of those
Who fear the chastening rod,
All unprepared, must then come forth,
To face Almighty God.


Atlantic Refering to the SS Atlantic a vessel that hit the rocks off the Shore of Nova Scotia, by the village of Prospect, on April 1, 1873.
Prospect: A fishing village in Nova Scotia on the Western Shore of Halifax County. Settled in 1754.
captainrefering to Captain James A. Williams.
Mr Ancient Rev William J. Ancient. The man who went with the fishermen to help rescue survivors, including the only child survivor, John Hindley.
James Hanley Potentially John Hindley the child rescued by Rev Ancient and the fishermen. The only child to survive the wreck.
bereftsad and lonely, especially through someone’s death or departure.
Anonymous. Date: 2014-11-13