Andrew Poleson SA1972.196.7
In early June 1830, a fleet of fifty British whaling ships reached the hunting grounds of Melville Bay via the Davis Straits a month before they expected. But the same winds that had helped them, also crowded Melville Bay with icefloes, and locked most of the fleet in, including the Resolution which was among nineteen vessels lost in the pack ice. Earlier it had been a very successful vessel and in 1814 the Resolution had brought back 44 whales at the end of the season – an annual catch never exceeded by any other British whaling ship. What Andrew sings of here is a sad event that may have occurred in another year but there is no trace of this event in any histories consulted so far, nor has any other version of this ballad been found. This is a pity because it might have helped us to decide exactly what Andrew sang in the second half of verse two. Now entered in the Roud Index as no. 6944.
From Peterhead the Ressie sailed; a fine old ship was she;
Away to Greenland she did steer in the year of 53. [23?]
Mong’st streams and packs of flaking ice she east and west did steer,
Until the first of April when the seals they did appear
We sail’d in among the pack where numerous they lay
And cheerful was our merry crew and high in hope that day.
But oh how short our human hope of earthly joys alway
No pleasure felt, each heart did mourn; that night brought grief and pain.
For three of our most noble crew, as fate would have it so,
That very night played on the ice; sad is this tale of woe.
The sun had sunk in western skies and keenly blew the wind;
Our ship went drifting through the pack and they were left behind.
In a letter to The Shetland Times dated November 16th 1940 the writer “Interested”, writing from Lerwick , gave the following verses and added:-“It would be very interesting to know if this ballad was ever set to music”.
Hard had they wrought, their limbs were tired, The frost was nipping keen;
And now all hands were called on board, But three were distant seen.
The sun had set in the western skies, And keenly blew the wind;
Our ship went drifting through the pack, And three were left behind
Far distant to the windward, far, The pack was opening fast
And quickly drifting was our bark Before the gathering Blast .
The bravest of our noble crew Were sent to give them aid
But could not bring them to the ship Nor help them if they stayed.
The first they stretched along the snow – His eyes were fixed on death
Moveless were his frozen limbs As he gently drew his breath
the third of those unfortunate men He being young and strong,
Although frost-bitten were his limbs Yet stood the cold so long.
He spoke of her who gave him birth, As there he dying lay;
And “Mother, Mother!” often he cried, Till life had ebbed away.
But now the vital spark is fled Which never will return;
Long will she look for him she loved, And lonely she will mourn.
He was the comfort of he home – Her only hope and joy,
Her hope has gone, her joy has fled, And dead her darling boy.
A mother mourning for her son, And none could know here grief;
Her tender heart with sorrow breaks, And none could give relief.
She speaks his name – his much loved name – And often does she sigh
Far from the earth his spirit fled. And lonely doe he lie.
For on the northern ocean vast – The home of ice and snow –
Came Death with his resistless grasp, And laid those mortals low.
Oh, cold and cruel was their death And cold their earthly graves,
And cold in death their bodies lie Beneath yon stormy waves.