Search

 

The Schooner Mary Ann

Roud #647

Strong shipping links connected Newfoundland and New York during the 19th and early 20th centuries. This song tells the story of a smallpox outbreak on a ship travelling this route. In Songs of the Newfoundland Outports 3, Kenneth Peacock publishes the title of this song as “Bound down to Newfoundland” and observes that, though the subject matter might point to its being quite an old song, the reference to the Statue of Liberty dates its composition to after 1886 (1965:905–6).

Listen to Mike McGrath sing “The schooner Mary Ann,” view an annotated transcript, and download your own copy of the words.

The schooner Mary Ann / Mike McGrath

Get the details

The schooner Mary Ann / Mike McGrath

The schooner Mary Ann, song (Oh ye landsmen that live on the land, it's a little do you know …) Strong shipping links connected Newfoundland and New York during the 19th and early 20th centuries. This song tells the story of a smallpox outbreak on a ship travelling this route. In Songs of the Newfoundland Outports 3, Kenneth Peacock publishes the title of this song as “Bound down to Newfoundland” and observes that, though the subject matter might point to its being quite an old song, the reference to the Statue of Liberty dates its composition to after 1886 (1965:905–6).


Mike McGrath's version of “The schooner Mary Ann”

Oh ye landsmen that live on the land, it’s a little do you know,
What we poor seamen do endure, where the stormy wind do blow.
On St Patrick’s Day we sailed away, in the schooner Mary Ann,
We left New York, our native home, going down to Newfoundland.

Oh the morning service it being o’er, we quickly slipped our line,
The Statue of Liberty in New York, we soon did leave behind.
We spread all canvas to the breeze, as you may understand,
And we bore away from our native home, going down to Newfoundland.

Our captain being a smart young man, scarce twenty years of age,
Got married to a loving wife, six weeks before we sailed.
But little did she ever think, as we sailed from the land,
That her husband she, would never see, as we sailed for Newfoundland.

We were scarcely three days on the sea, when in his cabin lay,
And called his mate unto him, those words to him did say,
‘I’m stricken down by some disease, and I can’t well understand,
For you to my mate, I leave full charge, going down to Newfoundland.

‘And if you can make some distant port, on the Nova Scotia shore,
Give me a decent burial, of you I’ll ask no more.
If ever you reach New York again, my debt you can make known,
For I’m dying sir, ‘twill cause the grief, to my fair one’s happy home.’

Oh the doctors they soon boarded us, our case for to make known,
Smallpox on board was raging, and the same to us they told.
Being on that following morning, three more were sent on shore,
May the lord have mercy on their soul, we shall ne’er see them no more.

Of six brave youths that left their home, only two of them returned,
Leaving mothers, wives, and children, the likes of them to mourn.
If ever I’ll reach New York again, my debt you—I’ll learn to live on shore,
For I’ll live a landsman all my life, and I’ll go to sea no more.