‘The Wrecker’s Song’ (1837)

This isn’t the first wrecker’s song we posted, but it’s the first from the 19th Ccntury. I came across it again yesterday and had to post it! But there’s some background that’s too good to pass by.

In May 1837 a young doctor sailed from Charleston, South Carolina for Key West. Dr. Benjamin Strobel had a difficult passage south, eventually reaching his destination aboard one of the region’s renowned wrecking vessels. One night his vessel fell in with rival crew of wreckers and the two crews, much to his surprise, enjoyed a lively dinner together. Strobel described the after-dinner scene in which he:

succeeded in preserving the following song, which was changed by the fiddler who accompanied his voice with his instrument. The fiddler is the reputed author of the song. I shall make no apology for the poetry; it is certainly quite characteristic.

The Wrecker’s Song

Come ye goot people von and all,

Come listen to my song,

A few remarks I have to make,

Which von’t be very long.

‘Tis of a vessel stout and goot

As ever yet was built of woot,

*

Along de reef where de breakers roar,

De Wreckers on de Florida shore.

Chorus — Along de reef, etc.

*

The Tavernier’s our rendezvous

At anchor dere we lie

And see de vessels in de Gulf

Carelessly passing by;

When night comes on we dance and sing,

Whilst de current some vessel is floating in;

When daylight comes a ship’s on shore,

Among de rocks where de breakers roar

*

Along de reef, etc.

*

When daylight dawns den we’re under veigh,

And every sail we set,

And if de wind it should prove light,

Why den our sails we’ll vet;

To gain her first, each eager strives,

To save de cargo and de people’s lives,

Amongst de rocks where de breakers roar,

De wreckers on the Florida shore.

*

Along de reef, etc.

*

When we get ‘longside we find she’s pilged.

We know well what to do;

Save all de cargo dat we can,

De sails and de rigging too;

Den down to Key West we soon will go,

Where quickly our salvage we shall know,

When every ting is fairly sold,

Our money down to us it is told.

*

Along de reef, etc.

*

Den von week’s cruise we’ll have on shore,

Prefore we do sail agen

And drink success to do sailor lads

Dat are ploughing of de main.

And when you’re passing by dis way

On de Florida-reef should you chance to stray,

Why we will velcome you on shore,

Amongst the rocks where the breakers roar.

*

Along de reef, etc.

*

Strobel contines:

The singer, who had a broad German accent, laid great emphasis on his words. Between each verse he played a symphony, remarking–“I make dat myself.” The chorus was trolled by twenty or thirty hoarse voices, which in the stillness of the night, and at a little distance, produced no unpleasant effect.

Strobel eventually gaves this and other “sketches” to his friend John James Audubon. They appeared in the third volume of Audubon’s Ornithological Biography as well as in the Charleston Courier. 

For more, read E. A. Hammond’s 1963 article “Wreckers and Wrecking on the Florida Reef, 1829-1832,” which appeared in The Florida Historical Quarterly.

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1 Comment

Filed under Dissertation Digest, Shipwreck culture, Shipwreck Kitsch

One response to “‘The Wrecker’s Song’ (1837)

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