The Loss of The Evangeline
Anonymous

  • As taut a craft as ever was seen
  • Was the Portknockie lugger, Evangeline,
  • Built for the swirl of the wild North Sea,
  • Of the toughest of oak and larch was she;
  • Her masts and sails and rigging and all
  • Were built to stand what might befall;
  • But even the strongest craft may fail
  • In the roaring rage of an Orkney gale.
  • Her Skipper was built on the self-same plan,
  • A rugged storm-trained Banffshire man,
  • Calm as a sea-bird, strong and brave,
  • He could ride the ridge of the roughest wave:
  • His spirit and grit nerved all his crew;
  • What the Skipper would dare they would forthwith do;
  • But even the bravest men may fail
  • In the roaring rage of an Orkney gale.
  • Season by season for many a year
  • She swung to her berth at Stronsay Pier,
  • The silver freight of her latest catch,
  • Glistening down her main deck hatch.
  • But whether her luck was good or bad,
  • A right warm welcome she always had,
  • And no one thought she would ever fail
  • In the roaring rage of an Orkney gale.
  • The Stronsay folk and her fisher crew
  • Forgathered as fisher folk aye do,
  • For, search the world, you will never find
  • Men of such single heart and mind;
  • They meet and they part like brothers all
  • With a smile, and a shake, and a cheery call,
  • Nor think of the day when their skill may fail
  • In the roaring rage of an Orkney gale.
  • One year, when the work of the fleet was done,
  • The Skipper set sail for the homeward run,
  • While the crew of the good Evangeline
  • Waving their hands, on the deck were seen,
  • While their voices rang back that old refrain
  • 'Goodbye, Good Luck, We will come again.'
  • And no one dreamed that they ever would fail
  • In the roaring rage of an Orkney gale.
  • Christmas was past with its kindly cheer,
  • And Hansel day of the new born year,
  • When, after a feast, come need on need,
  • The fish must be caught that the children may feed.
  • So out from Portknockie the fisher fleet steered
  • While the wind to the deadly south eastward veered,
  • And woe to the craft that with it must sail
  • In the furious rage of an Orkney gale.
  • The night came down like the fall of doom;
  • Not a star shone out on the fearful gloom,
  • When suddenly rushed the wind to its worst.
  • With a bound from their nets the fisher fleet burst.
  • Then, by God alone that night was seen
  • The lights of the little Evangeline.
  • As she drove, bow down, with her tattered sail
  • In the furious grip of that Orkney gale.
  • Past Borough Head like a feather she flew
  • Beyond will or skill of her captain or crew; /
  • They had done their best; they had done their last,
  • For the breakers rushed through the raging blast
  • And the billows swept over the groaning deck,
  • Leaving the lugger a crewless wreck
  • To drift without mast, or wheel, or sail
  • In the flying scud of that Orkney gale.
  • They all came back, but not as before
  • With a leap and a laugh to Stronsay shore:
  • They all came back, but silent and still
  • As men who had yielded to God's great will.
  • And the Stronsay folk remembered with pain . . .
  • 'Goodbye, Good Luck, We will come again.'
  • And they prayed, 'Lord, may thy mercy ne'er fail
  • The fishermen's need in an Orkney gale.'
  • Click to return to our Poets' corner