Poems by the one and only 'great'
Scottish Poet William Topaz McGonagall
POEM : The Wreck of the "Abercrombie Robinson" by William Topaz McGonagall
FROM : From More Poetic Jems
Twas in the year of 1842 and on the 27th of May
That six Companies of the 91st Regiment with spirits light and gay,
And forming the Second Battalion, left Naas without delay,
Commanded by Captain Bertie Gordon, to proceed to the Cape straightaway.
And on the second of June they sailed for the Cape of Good Hope
On board the 'Abercrombie Robinson,' a vessel with which few vessels could cope;
And in August the 25th they reached Table Bay,
Where a battalion of the 91st was warned for service without delay.
To relieve the 91st, which was to be stationed at Cape Town,
An order which the 91st obeyed without a single frown;
And all the officers not on duty obtained leave to go ashore,
Leaving only six aboard, in grief to deplore.
There were 460 men of the 91st seemingly all content,
Besides a draft of the Cape Mounted Rides and a draft of the 27th Regiment;
But, alas an hour after midnight on the same night
A strong gale was blowing, which filled the passengers' hearts with fright.
The ship pitched heavily and could be felt touching the ground,
Then Captain Gordon warned the Sergeant-Major and officers all round,
That they might expect a storm, to him it seemed plain;
And, as he predicted, it blew a terrific hurricane.
And the passengers' hearts were filled with dismay,
And a little after three o'clock in the morning the cable broke away,
Then the ship drifted helplessly before the merciless storm,
While the women and children looked sad, pale and forlorn.
Then the thunder roared and the lightning dashed in bright array,
And was one of the greatest storms ever raged over Table Bay,
And the ill-fated vessel drove in towards the shore,
While the Storm Fiend did laugh and loudly did roar.
And the ship rolled and heaved with the raging tide,
While the seas poured down the hatchways and broke over her side,
And the ship wrought for herself a bed in the sand;
Still Captain Bertie hoped all might get safely to land.
'Twas about seven o'clock when daylight did appear,
And when the storm ceases the passengers gave a cheer,
Who had been kept below during the awful night,
Then in small groups they came on deck, a most pitiful sight.
Alas! sad and dejected, sickly looking, pale and forlorn,
Owing to the close confinement during the storm;
And for a time attempts were made to send a rope ashore,
But these proved futile owing to the raging billows which loudly did roar.
Then one of the ship's cutters was carefully lowered over the side,
And her crew towards the shore merrily did glide,
And succeeded in reaching the shore with a leading line,
And two boats were conveyed to the sinking ship just in time.
And to save the women and children from being drowned,
Captain Gordon gave orders to the 91st all round
For the women and children to disembark immediately,
Who to God were crying for help most, frantically.
And the 91st made a most determined stand,
While lowering the women and children it was awful and grand,
As they lowered them gently into the boats over the ship's side,
Regardless of their own lives whatever would betide.
Then the sick were to disembark after the women and children,
And next the 27th Regiment and Cape Mounted Riflemen;
And from half-past eight till ten o'clock the disembarkation went on,
While the women and children looked ghastly pale and woe begone.
The disembarkation of the 91st came at last,
And as there were only two boats available they stood aghast,
Because the boats only carried each time thirty;
Still, the work went on for four hours most manfully.
And at half-past three the last boat left the ship's side,
And o'er the raging billows the small boats did glide,
Containing the officers and crew who remained to the last,
To see the women and children saved and all danger past.
And after a night of great danger and through a raging sea
Seven hundred souls were carried from a sinking ship providentially
And among them were trembling children and nervous women also
And sick men who were dying with their hearts full of woe.
But thank God they were all saved and brought to land,
All through Colonel Bertie Gordon, who wisely did command
The 91st to see to the women and children's safety,
An order which they obeyed right manfully;
And all honour is due to the 91st for their gallantry,
Likewise Captain Bertie Gordon, who behaved so heroically.