Andrew Poleson               [Lady Franklin’s Lament]              SA1972.196.8

Writing of this ballad in Naval Songs and Ballads (1898),  Professor C. H. Firth commented somewhat disparagingly,

“The search for the North-West Passage, namely the voyage of Sir John Franklin, and the long continued efforts to discover his fate also attracted the attention of writers of street ballads but neither Lady Fanklin’s Lament nor the  Lament on the Fate of Sir John Franklin and his crew deserve reprinting.  The last was written in 1860; ten years later the old street ballads practically became extinct.”

Firth didn’t count on the tenacity with which  songs, which had a special resonance for some occupations, might continue to be sung a whole century later.  In the 1970s many Shetlanders spoke of older relatives who had told them about their whaling experiences in the icy waters of Greenland and South Georgia. Possibly there were some Shetlanders among the crew of Sir John Franklin’s three ships, for they made their last call for supplies in Orkney before heading off to the north–west.  Andrew chose to sing only two verses on this occasion.  His friend  and neighbour Willie Williamson  provided a much longer version.  Roud index no. 437.

As I was sailing along the deep,
Snug in my hammock I lay asleep;
I dreamed a dream I thought was true
Concerning Franklin and his bold crew.

In Baffin’s Bay where the whale fish blow
The fate of Franklin no man knows;
He left his home like many more
He left his home to return no more.

“..I dinna keen the verses after yon.”