“The Loss of the Eliza (The Herons)”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1952
Keywords: sea ship disaster storm death
Found in: Canada(Newf)


The crew of the Eliza are cheerfully approaching home (?) when a sudden storm blows up. Driven before the storm, the ship is blown to pieces. The people ashore, including the sister of two of the sailors, await word, but the ship is never found

Supplemental text

Loss of the Eliza, The (The Herons)
  Partial text(s)

          *** A ***

From Edith Fulton Fowke, editor, and Richard Johnston, music editor,
Folk Songs of Canada (first edition), pp. 48-50. Based on a recording
by Kenneth Peacock, with the source being Mrs. A. Ghaney of Fermeuse;
the text may perhaps have been edited.

Fort Amherst's hardy youthful crew sang cheerily as they passed,
But yet Fort Amherst little knew that sailing was their last.
Only the small birds overhead encircling in the blue
Screamed down the win in fear and dread of some strange terror new.

(9 additional stanzas)


Fowke writes, "No information is available about the loss of the _Eliza_, but the story is very similar to that of the _Southern Cross_ which was lost in April, 1914, with one hundred and seventy men aboard." (It might be noted, however, that the ballad claims the _Eliza_ sank in October.) - RBW

"It is... one of the very few native ballads carrying supernatural portents (the herons) in the manner of the older traditional ballads... the spectres... the herons... Death's Angel" (Peacock).

Many [ships named _Eliza_] lost but no record both in October and off Cape Race/St Mary's Bay; the route would seem to have started at St John's [near Fort Amherst]. The best bet may be March 18, 1862, crushed in the ice off Bay Bulls -- on the route just south of St John's -- en route to St Mary's Riverhead, owned by Welsh & Co at St Mary's Riverhead with a captain possible named Welsh [who, in the ballad, sees the failing ship] (Northern Shipwrecks Database) - BS



  1. Fowke/Johnston, pp. 47-50, "The Loss of the Eliza (The Herons)" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Peacock, pp. 944-947, "The Loss of the Eliza" (1 text, 2 tunes)
  3. ST FJ047 (Partial)
  4. Roud #4424
  5. BI, FJ047