Digital Tradition Mirror

Ballad of Lewis Mills

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Pennywhistle notation and Dulcimer tab for this song is also available

Ballad of Lewis Mills
(Dwayne Thorpe)

Come all ye gallant dorymen, and you shall quickly hear
A tale of deeds of daring, of danger without fear.
Of Captain Blackburn's daring deeds you oftentimes have heard
And now of just as brave a man, please let me say a word.

I speak of gallant Lewis Mills, likewise his noble son.
From Gloucester port, that grand resort, to row they have begun
To fight with wind and current and to battle with the waves.
And to cross the broad Atlantic in the space of forty days.

The record stood at 55 days, it was set in '98
Said Mills, "Not bad, for two clam diggers but now it's out of date
And Gloucester men have too much pride to let it e'er be said
That New Jersey boats took home the prize while we stayed home in bed."

It was in the year of '67 of March the seventeenth day
When after many preparations the boat got underway
 They did not neglect to  take a pint of whiskey on each hip
To warm them in the water just in case to boat might tip.

But "What about your ears?," some said, "They'll very quickly freeze!
For there's a north wind blowing, and its now 14 degrees."
"The cold be damned,"  said Lewis Mills, "I'll go without a hat
For the Gulf Stream in six or seven days, will surely take care of that!"

In just about an hour's time, they rounded the breakwater light
And headed out to Spain or Scotland or somewhere on the right
They headed out for Spain or Scotland or Greenland or Japan
"Wherever it is, "  says Lewis Mills, "We're bound to strike some land."

But the boat began to take on ice, just like a coat of mail
And ice, as everybody knows,is very hard to bail
For it won't fit in a bucket and it won't pour from a pail
And the man who tries to row such a boat will very likely fail.

"Now comes the time, " says Lewis Mills, "we begin to feel the pinch
For the gunwales they're all frozen hard and we're sinking inch by inch
And also I have noticed, though I row with all I've got
We haven't moved a single foot, we're rooted to the spot."

"This being the case," says Lewis Mills, "perhaps we'll turn around
And see if we can't make it back to firm and solid ground.
For we've neither wings nor wet suits on, and logic makes me think
That since only Christ could walk on water, we'll very likely sink."

When they arrived at Dolliver's Neck, just shortly after dark
There were no TV cameras, no crowds in Stage Fort Park
There was neither a friendly hand nor voice to give them a glad hello
But only a Coast Guard cutter, to offer them a tow

And now you've heard my story, I have not detained you long,
Concerning our hero, Lewis Mills, let's toast him with a song.
Here's giving the record to Lewis Mills, likewise his noble son
For instead of going in 40 days, they made the trip in one.

(from Dwayne's record notes on Dwayne Thorpe, Minstrel JD209:
I perpetrated this song in 1967, and have lived in mortal fear of Lewis
Mills ever since. Everything in the song is true, and the events were
well-publicized in Massachusetts at the time. Mills' departure from
Stage Fort Park, in Gloucester, was even filmed by Boston television
crews, but there was considerably less interest in his return. Most of
details in the song, even some of its language, were taken from the
Gloucester Daily Times for March 17 and 18, 1967. To make a good song
I would be willing to exaggerate the absurdities, but there was no need.
The melody is from "The Handsome Cabin Boy", a song often sung by
the Gloucester singer, Peter Marston, during the two years when I was
his neighbor.

Thanks to Mudcat for the Digital Tradition!

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