The Mary L. McKay

Fred Gosbee/Castlebay


Originally built in Essex MA in 1894, the "Effie Morrissey" (as she was then called) had a 30 year career as a fishing vessel and cargo ship running from New England to Nova Scotia. Her speed and maneuverability gained her reputation which resulted in a ballad by Frederick William Wallace, a crew member. Originally written in 1913, "The Log of the Record Run" describes a 225-mile passage made by the Morrissey in 18 1/2 hours in gale-force winds. The name of the ship was changed to "Mary L. McKay" due to the nature of the voyage with Maine still under prohibition. It was an instant hit and the captain, Bob Bartlett, requested a signed copy. The story is well entrenched in fishing folklore both in Maine and Nova Scotia and the song has passed into folk tradition. The folk process has transmuted the song with many of the variants being the result of ignorance of nautical or local terms and even geography.


O come, all you hearty haddockers, who winter fishing go,
And brave the seas upon the Banks in stormy winds and snow
And you who love hard driving, come listen to my lay
Of the run we made from Portland on the Mary L. Mackay.

We hung the muslin on her, as the wind began to hum,
Twenty hardy Nova Scotia men chock full of Portland rum,
Mainsail, foresail, jib and jumbo, on that wild December day,
As we passed Cape Elizabeth and slugged for Fundy Bay.

Storm along, drive along, punch her through the rips
Don¹t heed those boarding combers as the solid green she ships
ŒT would fill your heart with terror, and you¹d wish you were away
At home in bed and not aboard the Mary L McKay

We slammed her past Monhegan as the gale began to scream,
Our vessel took to dancing in a way that was no dream,
A howler o'er the topsail we steered her east away,
O she was a hound for running, was the Mary L. Mackay.

We slammed her to Matinicus, the skipper hauled the log,
`Sixteen knots! Lord Harry, ain't she just the gal to jog?'
The half-canned wheelsman shouted, as he swung her on her way,
`Just watch me tear the mainsail off the Mary L. Mackay.


Well, the rum was passing merrily and the gang was feeling grand,
Long necks dancing in her wake from where we left the land,
Our skipper he kept sober, for he knew how things would lay,
And he made us furl the mainsail on the Mary L. Mackay.

Under fores¹l, jib and jumbo we tore wildly through the night
The surging foaming whitecaps in the moonshine made a sight
And in the wild inferno, boys we soon had hell to pay
But we didn¹t give a hoot aboard the Mary L McKay


We lashed our wheelsman to the box as he steered her through the
A big sea hove his dory-mate right over the main-boom,
It tore the oil pants off his legs and you could hear him say,
`There's a power of water flying o'er the Mary L. Mackay.'

Now, our skipper didn't care to make his wife a widow yet,
He swung her off to Yarmouth Cape with just her foresail set.
We passed Fourchu next morning and shot in at break of day,
And soon in sheltered harbour lay the Mary L. Mackay.


From Portland, Maine, to Yarmouth Cape two-twenty miles we ran,
In eighteen hours, my bully boys, now beat that if you can,
The crew said it was seamanship, the skipper he kept dumb,
But the force that drove our vessel was the power of Portland rum.

Newsletter and concert summary

Join the email list!

About the Newsletter...

We send out the newsletter 6-12 times a year. You will get a bit of news about our adventures, pre-release info about our recordings and a summary of upcoming concerts. You can opt out of our mailing list any time.

Concerts in Brief

  • Mar 12
    The Ridge,  Exeter
  • Mar 15
    Dickey Memorial Presbyterian Church,  Baltimore
  • Mar 16
    Lakewood Manor,  Richmond
  • Mar 18
    Well-Spring Retirement Community,  Greensboro
  • Mar 19
    Country Club of Salisbury,  Salisbury