Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tossers – "Nantucket Girl's Song" (2003)

But when he says “Goodbye my love, 
I'm off across the sea”
First I cry for his departure
Then laugh because I'm free

One of the stops on my recent bike tour of Nantucket was the Old North Cemetery, which contains 584 markers.

The oldest tombstone standing in the cemetery is dated 1746, although it is believed that the first burial in Old North took place in 1709.

Old North was originally the Gardner family’s cemetery.  There are tombstones for 26 Gardners at Old North.  Other families who are well represented there include the Coffins (42 tombstones), the Folgers (18), and the Bunkers (12), 

Robert Ratliff's tombstone
The most recent and perhaps most interesting tombstone in Old North Cemetery marks the final resting place of Robert Ratliff.  Here’s what it says:

Robert Ratliff
Born at
New Castle upon Tyne England
Feb. 25, 1794
Died at Nantucket
Feb. 20, 1882
Aged 88

He was a seaman on board the
ship Northumberland 84 guns under
command of Sir Geo. Cockburn that
conveyed Napoleon Buonoparte to
St. Helena in 1815, and received marked
notice from the Great Emperor.

He was also a seaman in the
Albion 74 [guns] in the attack on the city of
Washington 1814.

In 1820 he was shipwrecked on the
island of Nantucket where he resided
the remainder of his life.  He was
well known as a successful master
rigger for 50 years.  Honored for his 
integrity.  Respected for his uniform
courtesy and beloved for his kindness 
and generosity.

You can click here for a detailed account of the 67-day voyage that delivered Napoleon to St. Helena, a small and isolated island in the South Atlantic, after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.  Napoleon's exile on St. Helena ended with his death in 1821.

Napoleon on the voyage to St. Helena
The Albion was one of the 19 British ships under Admiral Cockburn’s command that unsuccessfully bombarded Fort McHenry a couple of weeks after British troops had burned Washington, DC.  Click here to learn more about the burning of Washington and the War of 1812 in general.

HMS Albion

* *      * * *

The Tossers are a Celtic punk band from Chicago who sound a little bit like the Dropkick Murphys – or vice versa, given that the Tossers were formed first.

The lyrics of “Nantucket Girl’s Song” (which was released on the Tossers' 2003 album, Purgatory) are based on the words of a poem that was written in 1855, perhaps by the wife of a doctor who resided on a New Zealand island that was visited that year by a Nantucket whaling ship.  The poem was brought back to Nantucket by the master of the ship’s wife, who had accompanied her husband on the voyage.

Here are the opening lines of that poem:

I have made up my mind now 
To be a Sailor's wife,
To have a purse full of money
And a very easy life,
For a clever sailor husband
Is so seldom at his home,
That his wife can spend the dollars
With a will that's all her own,
Then I'll haste to wed a sailor 
And send him off to sea,
For a life of independence
Is the pleasant life for me

Here’s “Nantucket Girl’s Song”:

1 comment:

  1. Mention of the bombardment of Fort McHenry reminds me of a cartoon from the 1960s. It shows a British Navy officer looking over the shoulder of an American being kept on his ship, saying, "Writing another one of your protest songs, Mr. Key?"