Adapted and given a tune by Phyl Lobl, this sung ballad of twelve verses was culled and partially rephrased from 35 verses of a poem by an unknown writer.
The poem was given by David Chatfield Edwards (ex Ltnt. Comm. RAN). His great grandfather was Henry Chatfield. The poem was labelled 'The Perilous Gate by the Writer of Craddock Head'. Unfortunately we don’t know who that was. It was found with a poem 'Carrwarra' by G.Wood. Perhaps the answer is 'out there'. Simon Campbell sang' Perilous Gate'. from a double album 'The People Have Songs' masterminded and produced by Miguel Heatwole.
A tale I tell of a narrow gate upon the eastern coast
Of many wrecks and ruins this narrow gate can boast,
Beneath Newcastle Harbour waves lie rotting hulls and sailor's graves,
Heroes tombs are hidden caves below the Nobby's post.
It is a pretty entrance but when you're homebound sail,
I'd rather stand far out to sea when it blows a stiffish gale.
Blowing from the South or East each huge wave a crest of yeast
Comes roaring like a wounded beast and mounts the rolling rail.
The sixth day of November round eighteen fifty eight,
The Eleanor Lancaster was caught entering the Perilous Gate,
We watched those huddled at the top with nothing but a slender prop
Which at each blow ewe thought would drop and all her timbers fail.
An awful sea was running and not in all that crew
Was one who thought boats could be brought those boiling breakers through
But then a little fair haired man pushed and panted as he ran
And urged us all the waves to scan and to our mates be true.
'Now lads', he shouted shrill and clear 'Who'll venture it with me?
Each minute lost a life might cost in such a tumbling sea.
With four good men I’ll wager I'll bring them all to shore
Come who will try?' ,three answere 'Aye' and I sir made up four.
It was a roughish kind of trip but Chatfield steered us well
I see him there with sea drenched hair facing what befell,
And when we'd brought them all to shore he shook us by the hand once more.
'I've met no braver men before, the truth to you I tell.'
For ten good years the Oyster Bank was beaconed by a spar
That stood in witness of the storm that sank the Lancaster
Five fathoms deep that rotting shell up reared the slender spar to tell
Of brave deed done do nobly well upon that very bar.
Then t'ward the close of winter, hard blowin' all the night
The great seahorses tearing high raced madly past the bight
Many a man came down to see if inbound craft there chanced to be
And sailor's wives watched anxiously out on the surging flood.
The 'Carrwarra' was coming in, I knew her bow so well
We watched her as she struggled on and battled with the swell
We stood there watching through the blast and hoped that once the Nobby's past
The Harbour she might make at last, none but the god's could tell.
She tried to turn again to sea but a snow white whiff of steam
Told us that her fires were spent, she drifted on her beam,
The engines by the waves were quenched, the men by those same waves were
Watcher's hearts were sorely wrenched with hope a fading gleam.
No boat stood out to recue those still clinging to the deck
Though one was there with sea drenched hair who now stood on the deck
The beacon pointing to the sky urged us not to let him die
But his same noble feat to try no man would risk his neck.
Many's the time at midnight I've heard the tempest roar
I've lain awake and wished that I could have the chance once more,
To be the one to leave the crowd and call his name out clear and loud
And free from Neptune's salty shroud bring him back to shore.