Ghostly Crew, The [Laws D16]

DESCRIPTION: A sailor has endured much without fear -- until the night twelve ghosts board his ship and take stations "as if [they] had a right." They disappear as the ship passes a lighthouse. The singer is sure they are sailors drowned in a collision with his ship
AUTHOR: Harry L. Marcy
EARLIEST DATE: 1874 ("Fisherman's Ballads and Songs of the Sea")
KEYWORDS: sea ship ghost
FOUND IN: US(NE) Canada(Mar,Newf)
REFERENCES (13 citations):
Laws D16, "The Ghostly Crew"
Doerflinger, pp. 180-182, "The Ghostly Crew" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Beck-Maine, pp. 204-205, "The Ghostly Fishermen" (1 text, 1 tune)
Greenleaf/Mansfield 115, "The Spirit Song of George's Bank" (1 text, 1 tune)
Peacock, pp. 873-874, "The Ghostly Sailors" (1 text, 2 tunes)
Leach-Labrador 96, "Ghostly Fishermen" (1 text, 1 tune)
Leach-Heritage, pp. 158-159, "The Spirit Song of George's Bank (The Ghostly Seamen)" (1 text, 1 tune on p. 204)
Creighton-NovaScotia 117, "The Ghostly Sailors" (1 text, 1 tune)
Creighton-SNewBrunswick 114, "The Ghostly Sailors" (1 text, 1 tune)
Smith/Hatt, pp. 96-99, "The Ghostly Sailors" (1 text)
Ives-DullCare, pp. 79-80, 245-246, "The Ghostly Fishermen" (1 text, 1 tune)
Ives-PEI, pp. 25-28,79, "The Ghostly Fisherman" (1 text, 1 tune)
DT 701, GHOSCREW GHOSCRE2

Roud #1822
RECORDINGS:
Pat Crich, "The Spirit Song on St. George's" (on MUNFLA/Leach)
Mrs. T. Ghaney, "Spirit Song on George's" (on MUNFLA/Leach)
Morris Houlihan, "The Ghostly Fisherman" (on NFMLeach); "Twelve Ghostly Fishermen" (on MUNFLA/Leach)
Pat Murphy, "The Ghostly Fishermen" (on MUNFLA/Leach)

CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "The Glen Alone" (theme)
ALTERNATE TITLES:
The Ghostly Seamen
NOTES: Gordon Bok reports, "The story I heard was that the schooner Haskell, out of Gloucester, was anchored near George's [Bank] when a sudden gale parted her ground tackle and she went charging, bare-poled, down through the fleet. She cut the schooner Johnston almost in two, killing all her men. On every voyage thereafter, a crew would appear on her deck at night and go through the motions of fishing. After a few trips, no crew would even sign on her, and she rotted at the wharf."
Creighton-SNewBrunswick adds more details: On March 7, 1866, the new Charles Haskell rammed the Andrew Jackson, inspiring this song; the Haskell later became known as "the ghost ship."
Some of this may be folklore; after all, we hear a lot of ghost stories about ships sunk by ramming. For example, a story very much like this took place twenty years *after* Marcy's text was published: On June 22, 1893, HMS Camperdown, in a confused practice maneuver involving an admiral showing off, rammed HMS Victoria, causing the latter to sink with the loss of 358 men including the admiral. Camperdown survived, but was put into reserve roles not long after, and was broken up in 1911 although she was only 22 years old.
And there is a ghost associated with the story: According to Peter Underwood's Gazetteer of British, Scottish & Irish Ghosts, p. 135, shortly after the Victoria sank, the ghost of the admiral aboard, George Tryon, was seen at the home of Lady Tryon in London.
Nonetheless, although the ghosts on the Haskell have not been verified, Beck-Maine, p. 203, assures us that the beginning and end are true: The Haskell did sink another ship, and she rotted at the pier because no one would serve on her. On p. 205, Beck compares the story to that of the North Star, a sealer out of Saint John's. This, however, seems to be simply a tale of another unlucky ship, not a true parallel. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.2
File: LD16

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 2017 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.