“They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in
great waters; these see the works of the Lord and His wonders
in the deep. For He commands and raises the stormy wind,
which brings up the waves. These men mount up to heaven,
they go down again to the depths and their soul is melted
because of this trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like
a drunken man, then come to their wit’s end.”

Psalms 107:23-7


Today is November 10, a day which is infamous in maritime history as a day of shipwrecks. Most everyone is familiar with the tragedy surrounding the Edmund Fitzgerald, who’s untimely demise was immortalized by Gordon Lightfoot in the hit song The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. It was on November 10, 1975 that the Edmund Fitzgerald left “some mill in Wisconsin” with “a load of iron ore 26,000 pounds more than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty”. She was bound for Cleveland, but sank in a November storm on Lake Superior, killing all 29 aboard. Their bodies were never recovered.

portugal_cove_10.jpgThirty-five years earlier, and less well known to most (but not to me) is the wreck of the W Garland, a small passenger ferry which left out of Portugal Cove, Trinity Bay, Newfoundland on November 10, 1940, bound for Bell Island carrying twenty-four passengers, plus the captain and the engineer.

At about 5:40 p.m., the Little Golden Dawn, another passenger ferry on the same route, left Bell Island with only the captain and engineer on board. This vessel was licensed to carry freight and passengers. There were lifebelts on board but no lifeboats. The captain observed the lights of the W Garland approaching from some distance, but neglected to check its compass bearings at regular intervals. Both ferries had each other in clear view, unobstructed by snow flurries. About a quarter of a mile from Bell Island it became obvious that they were going to collide, but the captain of the Little Golden Dawn did not blast a warning because his sound signal was not in working order. Instead of pulling to starboard, which is recommended procedure, he pulled to port. At the same time, the captain of the W Garland pulled to starboard and crashed into the starboard side of the Little Golden Dawn.


An eye witness said that the Garland continued on her course without reduction of speed, heading straight for land. However, with her bows stove in, she quickly sank, taking the majority of those on board to their doom. She was only 600 feet from the point of beach.

An empty cask was bobbing on the surface over the grave of the Garland, as well as a hatch and to these two floating objects the four survivors clung until rescue reached them from the shore. Sad to relate, the others who were on board had no such means of surviving in the deep water.

Early next morning search began for the 22 bodies laying in the cold depths off the beach. Altogether, thirteen bodies were recovered.


One of the four survivors was the owner/engineer aboard the W Garland . He was my grandfather, Norman Ash, who said that the only thing that kept him alive in those icy waters while he waited for rescue was the thought of his baby girls (my aunt and my mother, then aged 2 and 11 months, respectively). He seldom spoke of the tragedy. He never again owned a boat for hire. A maritime inquiry found negligence on the part of both vessels involved, and both owners were fined heavily.

Look below the fold for a poem commemorating souls lost on the W Garland, as well as the words to The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The Bay is In Sad Mourning

The Bay is in sad mourning,
From Bell Island came sad news
To hear about the tragedy
Which had all hands confused.

It happened in the Tickle here
Upon one Sunday night,
When the Garland struck the Golden Dawn,
Soon filled and sank from sight.

Now, when the Garland left the Cove,
As you may understand,
She had Norman Ash as engineer
And Abbott in command.

She shipped her course for Kelly’s Wharf,
And steamed towards the Beach
Not fearing any danger
Of the distance they do reach.

When the Garland left the Cove,
The wind was North Northeast,
The Golden Dawn had just arrived,
With passengers from Clarkes Beach.

The Golden Dawn, she shift her course,
As you may understand,
She had Dosren Rose as engineer,
And Mitchell in command.

She had not long left the Beach,
Scarce minutes three or four,
When people heard some screaming,
While standing on the shore.

A young man standing on the wharf,
Rushed without delay,
Called Fred Snow to get a boat,
For rescue right away.

Now Mr. Snow and Walter Dicks,
Did quickly in haste embark,
To rescue those still alive
Although it was so dark.

Search lights on the Beach did shine,
Across the Tickle bright…
To guide the boats while searching there
But got no success that night.

The ones that night were rescued were
Tucker and Norman Ash,
While Quilty and his cousin
Were rescued from a hatch.

There was Hector Hibbs, a sailor bold,
Who ploughed the ocean deep.
He passed away whilst in the boat
Before they reached the Beach.

There was one aged lady
Mrs. Clements was her name
She passed away that very night
While respiration was in vain.

There is twenty more we do recall,
And you know their names quite well,
May God have mercy on their souls,
And in heaven may they dwell.

Joseph Pynn 1961

Lyrics for: Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald
The legend lives on, from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee.
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy.
With a load of iron ore, 26,000 tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty,
That good ship and crew was a bone to be chewed,
When the gales of November came early.The ship was the pride of the American side
Comin’ back from some mill in Wisconsin.
As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most
With a crew and good captain well seasoned.
Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms,
When they left fully loaded for Cleveland,
And late that night when the ship’s bell rang
Could it be the north wind they’d been feelin’?The wind in the wires made a tattletale sound,
And a wave broke over the railing,
And every man knew as the captain did too,
’twas the Witch of November come stealin’.
The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait,
When the gales of November came slashin’.
When afternoon came it was freezin’ rain,
In the face of a hurricane west wind.When suppertime came, the old cook came on deck
Sayin’ “Fellas, it’s too rough to feed ya”.
At seven p.m., the main hatchway caved in,
he said “Fellas, it’s been good to know ya”.
The captain wired in he had water comin’ in
And the good ship and crew was in peril,
And later that night when its lights went out of sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.Does anyone know where the love of God goes,
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searchers all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay
If they’d put fifteen more miles behind ‘er.
They might have split up or they might have capsized,
They may have broke deep and took water.
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the rooms of her ice water mansions.
Old Michigan steams like a young man’s dreams,
The islands and bays are for sportsmen.
And farther below Lake Ontario
Takes in what Lake Erie can send her.
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
With the gales of November remembered.

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
in the Maritime Sailors’ Cathedral
The church bell chimed ’til it rang 29 times,
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called Gitche Gumee
Superior, they said, never gives up her dead,
When the gales of November come early.