Gale of August '27, The
DESCRIPTION: 87 fishermen set out in April for the Sable Island fishing grounds. When a storm blows up, their vessels sink and all are lost. A memorial service in Lunenburg draws 5000. The singer hopes they will meet again in Heaven
AUTHOR: George Swinamer
EARLIEST DATE: 1951
KEYWORDS: sailor sea fishing storm wreck funeral death religious
Aug 25, 1927 - The _Joyce M. Smith_, _Uda F. Corkum_, _Mahala_, and _Clayton W. Walters_, all of Lunenburg, are lost with all hands off the Sable Island shoal
FOUND IN: US(MA) Canada(Mar)
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Doerflinger-SongsOfTheSailorAndLumberman, pp. 184-185, "The Gale of August '27" (1 text, 1 tune)
cf. "The August Gale (I)" (subject) (describes the consequences of this storm in Newfoundland)
cf. "The August Gale (II)" (subject?)
NOTES [728 words]: Lunenburg is a town (and county) in Nova Scotia; the town is on the coast about 60 kilometers south and west of Halifax. Sable Island, the "graveyard of the Atlantic," is a long, low island about 250 km. due south of the eastern tip of Nova Scotia. C. H. J. Snider wrote in The Canadian Magazine in 1928 that "until an earthquake sinks Sable Island a thousand fathoms deep, the price of Atlantic fish will be the lives of men" (quoted in Gerald Hallowell, The August Gales: The Tragic Loss of Fishing Schooners in the North Atlantic, 1926 and 1927, Nimbus Publishing, 2013, p. 91). At least one author published a poem at the time describing the "evil" island; Hallowell quotes a large part of it on pp. 105-106.
The gale was very likely a hurricane; there had been reports of severe storms moving up the North American coast for several days before it hit the Maritimes (Hallowell, pp. 91-94). The forecast issued in Nova Scotia was for windy weather. But none of the fishing schooners had radios, so they had no way to know this (Hallowell, pp. 94-95).
On land, nine people were killed, and damage was estimated to exceed a million dollars (Hallowell, pp. 95-96). Ships were destroyed all around Nova Scotia; supposedly sixteen sank just in Louisbourg harbour (Hallowell, p. 97). And roads, rails, and phone and telegraph lines were down throughout the province. More than fifty people were thought to have died in Newfoundland when the storm hit there the next day (Hallowell, p. 98).
Hallowell says that there was concern about dozens of ships when the storm hit, but most eventually came back to port. The ships described in this song of course did not come back.
The Uda R. Corkum (Hallowell's name) had been built in 1918 by Captain Freeman Corkum, and named for his daughter (Hallowell, p. 4); she was listed as 90.7 tonnes (Hallowell, p. 116). She had left Burin, Newfoundland about a week before the storm (Hallowell, p. 102), and wreckage was finally found on September 27 by the Arras and identified by Freeman Corkum (Hallowell, p. 103). Uda Corkum herself would eventually drop a wreathe in the sea to commemorate her family's ship (Hallowell, p. 4). Hallowell, p. 118, has a list of the 19 men lost on the Corkum, including her captain Wilfred A. Andrews and two of his brothers.
The Joyce M. Smith had been built in 1920; her captain, Henry Maxner, was 55 years old and one of the owners of the 102.5 tonne ship (Hallowell, p. 109). She sailed from Lunenberg, but most of her crew was from Newfoundland (Hallowell, pp. 153-154). Hallowell, p. 157, lists the 23 men who were lost with her; pp. 154-155 have photos of Maxner and a few of the others.
The Clayton W. Walters had been built in 1916 for Captain Stannage Walters. She was a bit smaller -- 72.5 tonnes (Hallowell, p. 110). Marsden "Mars" Selig had taken charge of her in 1926. He was 33 when he sailed in 1927, and his wife was pregnant with his second child, whom he had never seen. Two other members of the Selig family, plus his wife's brother, would also die with the Walters; Hallowell, pp. 110-111, has photos of Mars Selig and several of the others. Hallowell, p. 112, lists the 22 sailors lost on the Walters.
The Mahala was almost new at the time of her loss, having been launched in 1925. She was listed at 88.9 tonnes (Hallowell, pp. 114-115). Her captain, Warren Knickle, was just 28 years old. The crew of 21 included two of the captain's brothers, his brother-in-law, and (it appears) five cousins; among the other crew was a set of three brothers and a father and son; it would appear that several families were all but wiped out by her loss (the list of those lose is on p. 116 of Hallowell; pp. 114-117 give photos of several of the dead).
In addition to the men lost with their ships, some ships which survived suffered casualties, e.g. Manus Hemeon was swept out to sea from the Julie Opp II (Hallowell, p. 113).
It's interesting to see that this song has been collected primarily in Newfoundland even though the ships are from Nova Scotia. To be sure, the storm also hit Newfoundland. As early as August 27, the Halifax Herald reported three dead and much damage in the island (Hallowell, p. 125).
The August 27 gale is very likely the subject of "The August Gale (II)" as well, although Lehr/Best-ComeAndIWillSingYou assign it to a 1935 storm.- RBW
Last updated in version 4.4
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2022 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.