The following poem is a work of fiction but traces the life of someone involved in one of Canada's worst, and all-but-forgotten, disasters.


         NEWFOUNDLAND MAN by René Schmidt  

Well I be a Newfoundland man, me feet upon the sand and
calluses on my hands, this b’y from Newfoundland

We fishes in the sea boys, the schooner ships is our toys
the luck at sea is ours, boys, we sails from Newfoundland

I left my home so early son, to see what riches could be won
and go beyond the setting sun, far from my native land

To Ontario I did go roam, the land of jobs and soil and loam
but far from family and my good home, away in Newfoundland

Manufacturies were shut then, to anyone but grown men
and they was closed up like a pen, to a boy from the hinterland

So I got a job on lakers see?  t'was better then to suit me
and I earned an honest sailor's fee as a Great lakes deckhand

Well a wheelsman became my trade, I did it well and got well paid
I began to think I'd got it made, with the big ship's wheel in my hand.

Then I was ready to quit the life, the Great Lakes had seen my strife
and the cold could cut you like a knife, and I longed for Newfoundland.

I told the captain, shook his hand, said I'd return to Newfoundland
he said, "Just one more trip this year, a brand new ship needs your wheelsman's hand"

"Canada's newest ship just in from the Soo, lost her wheelsman to the 'flu 

and I recommend to steer her, you, with your steady hand

Flattered I was and told him so, I really couldn't refuse to go
for one more time to the lakes I'd go, this boy from Newfoundland.

The James Carruthers was her name, straight and smooth and clean as flame
into her wheelhouse I signed my name, Clyde Barnes, St. Anthony, Newfoundland

Out to sea we went you men, and up into Lake Huron then
we hit a storm like nothing when I'd seen on sea or land

The captain could have turned for shore, like dozens of ships and many more
to wait out the storm and hear the roar, from behind a point of land

But the captain a proud man was he, he thought his new ship equal to be
to any storm on any sea... Was there such foolishness in all the land?

The snow fell thick all around the lake, the ship iced up like a wedding cake 
each wave was worse for us to take, and I wished for Newfoundland

The sea come from starboard, the wind from port, the ship would turn and buck and snort
I longed for safety of some port, or a beach on which to strand

This brand new ship was tossed around, bodies lost were never found
the shriek of fear was one long sound, almost more than I could stand

This small Lake Huron was busting us up, the ship held water like a cup
each time she rolled she slower come up, but far were we from land

The wind and seas come yet still higher, this brand new ship bent around like wire.
cracks came in and put out the fire and her engines did silent stand.

We went down into the sea then, me, the captain, and other good men
 from eight big ships, all of them down; our bodies littered the sand

Eight ships lost with all hands drowned, twenty-two more ships run aground
two hundred men or there around, would never more feel the land

You don't believe it? I'll tell you every bit and word is true
so think about the Great Lakes blue, so far from Newfoundland

The storms are big and bad and bold, November storms the worst all told
so stay on shore and you'll grow old, not like me from Newfoundland


Rene Schmidt  copyright 1987