Image of The Gossamer Gravestone

In the Autumn of 1868 the Clipper Ship 'Gossamer' came second in the unofficial race
to bring back from China to London the first tea of the season.

Her young and reckless skipper, Captain John Thompson, having made his name,
proposed to and married his sweetheart Barbara Kerr.

Within three weeks they were setting out together from London on his next voyage.
Barbara was to be dropped off in Plymouth.

A severe westerly gale was blowing up the English Channel.
Most ships put into port to shelter, but the Gossamer was a Clipper Ship with deadlines to meet.

This trip didn't go so well......


Gossamer Gravestone Text
yellowfiddler image Home Back to OldTimeTim's Home Page
yellowfiddler image Songs Back to Songs intro page
yellowfiddler image *** NEW ***
The Head Gardener
In his little red weskit....
yellowfiddler image Five New Heads
A Music Hall style song
yellowfiddler image The Migrant
The fate of Charlotte Kimpton in 1845
redfiddler image The Melancholy Wreck of the Gossamer
The sad story, as described in a display at the Salcombe Maritime Museum.
yellowfiddler image Down In The Dark
The song of the badger
yellowfiddler image Nothing that's left but the Squeal
celebrating the role of the pig in UK culture
yellowfiddler image Dark Ember
A country style song of unrequited love
yellowfiddler image The Devil in York
Traditional style chorus song based on a true story
yellowfiddler image So Far From Home
The Marching Song of the ghosts of the Ninth Legion
redfiddler image Steam Again in Goathland
Written at the time of the re-opening of the North Yorkshire Moors railway
yellowfiddler image The Tale of the Christmas Tree fairy
An epic seasonal monologue

The Melancholy Shipwreck of the Gossamer

      Take notice all, of what may befall,
      How your life may be held on a thread,
      A gossamer token
              so easily broken,
      Forever to lie with the dead

      My name is John Thompson a Sea Captain bold,
      Just lately from China returned,
      and taken to wife
              the love of my life,
      Far better if she had me spurned

                  Grass not waves shall cover our grave,
                  Daisies shall mark where we sleep.
                  So briefly together,
                            but our love is forever.
                  Stranger, do not weep.

      For eight long days we faced the gale,
      Till a homeward beat we'd found,
      First Start then Prawle
              We'll overhaul,
      Then clear through to Plymouth Sound

      But the rip tide took us perilous close,
      The danger was seen too late,
      Both anchors dropped
              but nothing could stop,
      The Gossamer's terrible fate.

                 Grass not waves shall cover our grave,
                 Daisies shall mark where we sleep.
                 So briefly together,
                         but our love is forever.
                 Stranger, do not weep.

      With a terrible rending she drove on the rocks,
      The great seas washing her deck,
      Now the Gossamer lay
              on the rocks of the bay,
      Could any be saved from the wreck?

      Now Barbara Kerr had climbed to the deck,
      And she clung to her captain so brave,
      for to swim or to stay
              no one could say,
      and she trembled at every great wave.

                  Grass not waves shall cover our grave,
                  Daisies shall mark where we sleep.
                  So briefly together,
                          but our love is forever.
                  Stranger, do not weep.

      Then a monstrous sea tore her from his grasp,
      John Thompson leapt into the swell,
      He'll save her or die
              on the rocks of the bay,
      Ringers sound your knell

      Still tightly wrapt in each other's arms,
      Tossed ashore by the tempest they lay,
      and their lifeless bones
              to Chivelstone,
      Were gently borne away.

                  Grass not waves shall cover our grave,
                  Daisies shall mark where we sleep.
                  So briefly together,
                         but our love is forever.
                  Stranger, do not weep.

blankspace


© Tim Brooks October 2015

About this Song

I was searching for inspiration for a song to enter the Watford Folk club's competion in 2015 to suit the required theme 'Love and Loss' when we found this story in the Salcombe Maritime Museum while on holiday in Devon. I was given permission to photograph the display, and later that week we visited the Start Point lighthouse, where we purchased a booklet about this incident, and later went on to see the grave itself in Chiselstone Churchyard. Intriguingly there was a short epitaph included in the Museum display which I have used as the refrain, and we had expected that we would see this text on the gravestone, but as you can see above it's not from there!

I got the song completed in time for the deadline, and sent off my entry but failed to get into the finals :-( Never mind - now I can publish it and sing it!

Media files

Audio and Video files

An audio clip of this song is here on soundcloud

Printable Song Sheet

  Here is a printable pdf file of the lyric