The Trader, song

Eddie Butcher, singing in English
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Oh, come all you gallant seamen bold, now listen here a while to me
And landsmen too while thus I do relate unto you a tragedy;
It’ll grieve each heart while I’m apart for to relate those lines all o’er
That a ship of fame, Trader by name, was lately lost upon the shore.

Oh, November on the twenty-fourth from Galway town as we set sail
The weather it was calm and clear, we had a sweet and a pleasant gale;
That jovial crew played in full view, no thoughts of danger did we fear,
For London town straight we were bound intending our long course to steer.

Five hundred and forty tons it was our noble vessel’s load
Of corn and wheat, as we thought fit, our gallant ship she was well stored;
Seven sailors bold you may behold, the Trader’s jovial company,
Our numbers few, but kind and true, we lived in great tranquillity.

The night before as our brave captain in his cabin sleeping were
He dreamed a voice called him by name and those sad tidings did declare,
– Your ship and crew and your cargo too will in the storm be cast away,
Your family you ne’er will see. He dreamt that thrice before break of day.

Next morning straight just by daylight as our brave captain he arose
He saw the storm gathering round and in the north so fast did close;
He gave command to every hand to mind their post till all is o’er,
But oh, alas, it did increase, we never reached that wished for shore.

The seas they did like mountains rise, we did not know well what to do,
Our course we bore right round the shore to we came to the point of Stroove.
Our ship was good and she might have well stood, although tremendous winds did blow,
When a sudden shock upon a rock it caused our helm off to go.

Then our hard fate for to relate as we lay on the ocean wide,
In great distress, as you may guess, we were tossed about by wind and tide;
The mighty powers we did implore the swelling waves for to enstill;
Death did appear as we drew near the lovely shores of sweet Downhill.

At five o’clock our vessel struck just as daylight did disappear,
All boats were run, our hopes were gone, pale Death unto us it was drawing nigh;
But oh, our cries would rent the skies when overboard our mainmast fell;
With heavy sighs and watery eyes we bid our friends a long farewell.

We bid them all a long farewell for we will never see them more,
But hopes to meet when God thinks fit to join that bright celestical shore.
[Forever more we’ll mourn our loss of those who died in that great storm,
May the Lord on high receive their souls, may they rest in peace in heaven above.]

The people there from everywhere come flocking that sad sigh to see,
Seven heroes’ corps lying on the shore, the Trader’s doleful company;
It is in Dunboe they’re lying low where there you’ll see their green green graves,
No friends were near but strangers dear, we buried them in sweet Articlave.

Now to conclude, end those few lines, no more at present I will speak,
But I’ll leave down my slender quill for some more learned man to take
In hopes to see that they’ll mind me, tell my distress to great and small
And have it rolled in their record: the gallant Trader’s sad downfall.


In the parish churchyard at Articlave there is a stone ‘To the memory of Robt. Castle Master John Jamison Supercargo and six sailors who perished in the Brig Trader of Greenock near the Castle Rock under Freehall on the night of the 24th Novr, 1826. They are here interred.’ The song was printed in a Belfast song-book the following year; but its survival in Magilligan alone, near where the wreck occurred, indicates a long local oral tradition. Its author was thoroughly versed in ballad idiom. The captain’s portentous dream recalls the old broadside – significantly titled – ‘The New York/Cork Trader, (Laws K22), and the two songs have verbal similarities: W.H. Logan A pedlar’s pack of ballads and songs Edinburgh 1869, p. 47–50. The ‘Trader’ shares one formulaic line (8.4) with ‘Rob Roy’: Child IV 248. The most numerous detailed similarities are in another shipwreck ballad of probable Ulster origin, ‘The Middlesex Flora’, of which there is a Belfast son-book text of 1829: RIA 12 B' 16. This seems to have come from the same printer as the 1827 text of the ‘Trader’ and, though the dates suggest otherwise, to have influenced that text. We do not know when ‘The Middlesex Flora’ was composed, but there is a report of it being sung about 1780: Christie I 254–5.

Henry’s version (B), also from Magilligan, agrees with the song-book text in some details where Eddie’s version varies. In 9.3–4 they preserve lines which Eddie omitted and which, from 1966 onwards, he has replaced by lines of his own composed in response to a persistent enquirer after the missing lines.