The Third Boat
Evan Gorry — The Skipper of the lugger “Dauntless.”
Kate Gorry — His wife.
Mary Gorry — A widow, mother of Evan Gorry.
Nan Sayle — An old gossipy neighbour.
Mrs Cannell — A fisherman’s wife.
Nellie — A girl friend of Kate Gorry.
Captain Watterson — Harbour Master.
Alex Kaymad — Fisherman.
Johnna Moughtin — Fisherman.
Billya Cashin — Fisherman.
Pherric Killip, etc — Fishermen.
Hugh Radcliffe — Cook boy of the “Dauntless.”
Rev. Arthur Smith — Minister.
Margaret Smith — His wife.
The action takes place at Peel, Isle of Man, during a day in March, a generation ago.
SCENE. Peel quayside, “Weather Glass” Corner. The masts and spars of the shipping in the harbour are seen near by; the lighthouse, and ruins of Peel Castle in the distance. A group of fishermen are standing in the roadway. They are warmly clad in thick clothing, guernseys, canvas jackets, blue overalls, mufflers, thigh sea boots, and shorter knee sea boots, etc. Near the “Weather Glass” on the granite plinth stands the Harbour Master. He is seen above the heads of the fishermen. He is a sturdily built man about 65 years of age, with dignified manner and dressed in nautical style, double-breasted coat, with brass buttons, bo’sun’s cap, etc. Time, about 9 a.m. Two boats have sailed and the fleet are waiting for the third to venture out.
KAYMAD (peering at barometer). Well, we’ve had some days of heavy weather, Captain. How is the glass?
HARBOUR MASTER. A good glass, Kaymad, been steady for twenty-four hours, and inclined to rise. The wind appears to be hardening to the No’rad.
KAYMAD. How do you call the wind now?
HARBOUR MASTER. About a North by East, and a fine, freshening breeze.
MOUGHTIN. Well, Captain Watterson, I hope that it will hold for a few days longer. We are not quite ready for sea yet. We have got an engineer over from Douglas overhauling our engine. It gave us a lot of trouble last season; kept us in when we should have been at sea; and lost good money for us too. We are all ready for sea except that the engine is holding us back.
KILLIP. We would be away with it too, only that we are waiting for one of our crew. It’s that William Corjeag, he is living down at the North at a place they are calling “The Lhen,” and he sent me a letter saying that the wife was took bad, but he said that very likely she would be well again in a day or two, but he said that he didn’t like to leave her until she was middling again. He’s a good man is William Corjeag; and he has been with me for twelve seasons, so I much humour him; but I’m thinking myself that he is only waiting for word that the “Third Boat” has sailed. They are a bit that way inclined down at the North; aye, so I’m told.
KAYMAD. Any word of the “Wanderer” and the “Ranger” Captain?
HARBOUR MASTER. Aye, Master Keig, the ship’s husband informed me that he had a telegram home from Kingsale reporting a quick and safe passage; good sign of mackerel and buyers anxious for fish. Thou are ready for sea, Alex, why not chance it?
KAYMAD (shrugging shoulders) Well, thou see Captain, it’s this way. I am not against going third myself, but I’ll give in that some of our crew are for holding on a bit longer, and I don’t hold with a skipper going contrary to the feeling of his men, I’m not one for big ship style, and giving orders and the like of that. I was always one for working agreeable like with the crew. I’m not putting any faith in this kind of thing myself, at all, at all, I’m saying still that it is only a notion and that there is nothing in it but weakness and boghned, but still and for all, as the man said before now, when the notion is took at them, “Thou will get leave and that’s the way it is.” Thou cannot “on them.”
HARBOUR MASTER (quizzingly). Aye? Aye? Have you got “Yn Luss” aboard Alex?
KAYMAD (hesitatingly). Well now, I’m not denying that some of our fellows haven’t stowed a scraveen up in the two eyes of her.
MOUGHTIN (with a superior air). Boghned, I’m calling it all, “Third Boat” and the “Herb” too, all old notions. Only we are waiting on the engine, we would be up big lug, and away down channel this tide, and we would not be wanting the herb either.
HARBOUR MASTER (slyly). No, No, Johnna, thou would not be wanting the thing that thou have got already, I’ll bet thee a plug of tobacco — though I don’t use it myself — that there is a bit of the herb in every man’s bag — Well, what art thou saying Johnna?
MOUGHTIN (with a short laugh). I’m saying nothing, and I’m not a betting man either Harbour Master.
HARBOUR MASTER. Aye, Aye, but still and for all thou art not denying it, Johnna.
MOUGHTIN (turning away). I’m saying nothing.
HARBOUR MASTER (abruptly). What art thou thinking of it Evan?
KILLIP (eagerly). Aye, Aye, come on Evan, say thy say.
EVAN GORRY (in a manly voice). Well, men, this is how it appears to me, I’ve given a good deal of consideration to this idea that the boat sailing third, will meet with some misfortune, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there is nothing in it. I’ve been thinking of the boats that have been lost from this port in my time. There was the “Sonnet” lost in a gale of wind with all hands. Did she sail third beat? (silence). The “Lydia,” ran down by a Cunarder, on a fine evening and two men drowned. Did she sail third (no answer). Then there were the “Romeo” the “Maggie Maddrell” the “Quickstep” the “Fear Not” all lost men. None of these vessels left the harbour third? If they had done so, it would have been remembered. Now look at the other side of the case. The biggest season’s in earning that were ever known were made by boats that sailed third. The “Tynwald” the “Rover’s Belle” the “Lily.” They never lost a man, and they did not miss a night’s fishing or lose a net, except through the usual stress of weather —
CASHIN (eagerly). I was mate on the “Tynwald” the year she made the big season —
HARBOUR MASTER. Avast!
CASHIN. Aye, but you see I know, and —
HARBOURMASTER (sternly). Belay!
CASHIN (sharply). None of your’e big ship style, here, Habour Master.
CHORUS OF FISHERMAN (excitedly). Shut up, stow it! take a turn! dry up! Give us a rest! Go to bed!
EVAN. Steady men.
CASHIN. Aye, Aye, Sir, steady it is, never mind them Evan, go on.
EVAN. Well men, as I was saying. I think that the idea of the third boat to leave the harbour to begin the fishing season being unlucky is nothing but superstition and foolishness. It is quite unworthy of us to pay any heed to it. Now it appears to me that if there is any good fortune in numbers I think three should be the lucky number for us, and we should all endeavour to sail third, instead of avoiding it.
CASHIN (impatiently). Have thou finished, Evan, because I can tell a good yarn —
CHORUS. We’ll hear thee afterwards, take thy time, go on Evan.
HARBOUR MASTER (encouragingly). Aye, Evan thou were saying that we should endeavour to sail third instead of avoiding it.
EVAN. Well, it appears to me that we fisherman have enough natural obstacles to overcome, without adding foolish ones of our making, to the number. As things now are we have bad weather, contrary winds, tides, uncertain markets, scarcity of fish, loss of nets and gear, care of the vessel, the finding of our way safely into strange harbours. Surely men we have enough anxiety on us now in trying to earn our living, keep our families and make the boats pay, that we need not observe a superstitious custom such as this. I have not been able to find out where the idea came from, or how it arose. No real misfortune has ever attended the boats that have sailed third. Let us forget the whole silly business, and agree that from this season, three shall be our fortunate number. As Manxmen, particularly, we should favour the number three because our arms are three legs.
CASHIN. Hear! Hear! We are bound for the South of Ireland, the land of the three-leaved Shamrock. A rope has three strands, and as children we always said in our races one, two, three and away. Aye, and when we sell our fish the Auctioneer says, third and last time, going, going, gone!
HARBOUR MASTER. Aye and a full rigged ship has three masts; and the sea always gives a drowning man a third chance for life.
KAYMAD. Aye and I’ve heard that old Nan Sayle, always lifts three leaves, and says, three prayers before she gives the herb, aye, and for a bad case of erysipelas she rubs the sore place three times with three pieces of iron.
KILLIP. The parson publishes a wedding three times and we always have three legs when mending a net.
EVAN. Aye, we might give many other instances in which the number three is used to our advantage and well being. Even in sacred things the number three has been used to indicate a measure of completeness and a standard of perfection (reverently and with lowered voice): There are three persons in the Holy Trinity and our Saviour rose again on the third day. Look here shipmates I propose that we take “three” as our fortunate number. These old superstitious ideas had their origin in ignorance and weakness. They are unworthy of Manxmen and especially of sea-faring men. We must do our duty, the sea is cruel, but it is our business to study its moods, and learn its laws, and win a livelihood from it. It may be that for some of us it will be our doom, perhaps our grave, that we cannot tell, no man knows. If it must be so, why, we will meet our fate like men. As soon as we are ready for sea and weather permitting we sail, be it third or thirteenth. For my part I will not strive to go third or avoid going, if it comes my turn.
(There is a moment’s silence).
KAYMAD (thoughtfully). Aye, thou art right Evan, still and for all, thou will get leave, thou can never tell. There’s things in we don’t understand and there’s no harm in being on the safe side, as oul Juan-Illiam-beg used to say before now.
HARBOUR MASTER. What was that yarn, that thou were going to spin Billya.
CASHIN (absently). Aye, oh yes, I was that took with listening to Evan that I’ve clean forgotten what I was talking about.
HARBOUR MASTER. Thou said that thou were mate on the “Tynwald” the year she made the big season.
CASHIN. Aye, Evan was speaking of the big season made by the “Tynwald” the year she sailed “Third.” Aye, and I was mate on her and we did mighty well; divided forty-two pounds a man, aye and got home to walk in the club procession on the twenty-sixth of June, aye, I remember I had my measure took for a new suit of blue pilot cloth before we sailed so that it would be sure to be ready for the Club Day, aye, and it was finished waiting for me, when I got home, and I took the money in my hand and went straight and paid for it the day we “settled” aye —
HARBOUR MASTER. Get on with thy yarn, Billya. What has thy new suit got to do with the “Third Boat.”
CASHIN (reprovingly). I’m coming to that too, don’t thee get into the way of hurrying, Captain Watterson. There is far too much haste in these days, take thy time, La, Traa dy Lhioor. At the time I’m speaking of, Kirree and me were living in the lil’ thatch house at Dalby. Times were good and we were not short. After I had paid for my new suit and oil-skins and sea boots and some Manx flannel and a few things like that, I gave all the rest of the pound notes of the Kinsale earnings to Kirree, and there was a flock of notes, too. We did not go to the Shetland Islands that year; we thought we would try the herring fishing at home, aye, and we done a good season, too, and every Saturday we would be dividing a pound note or two, aye, and some times more, and I always gave them regular to Kirree, I was saying raa to her, use what thou need, and put the rest away in the cupboard on the top shelf.
HARBOUR MASTER. Why didn’t thou put them in the bank.
CASHIN. Hold thee on a bit, Captain, I don’t trust them banks. Well, the summer fishing finished and then we went away across to Howth. Aye, and we done well too, and then we came home and laid the boat by for the winter, and I stayed at home to mend my herring nets, before going on the “Loft” at Peel to mend our mackerel train. Well it happened that one day before Christmas Kirree was wanting to go to Peel to buy some bits of things, and she went to the top shelf of the cupboard to get a pound note or two, and, behold ye, they were all gone, “took.”
CHORUS (with interest). “Took,” “gone,” “stole?”
CASHIN (solemnly). Took by the mice, they were. All chewed as fine as meal. All gone, aye, that was the third boat for ye, and that’s the for I would never go third since.
SCENE. The living room kitchen in the home of Evan Gorry. He is skipper of the fishing lugger “Dauntless” fitting out for the Spring mackerel fishing off the South West Coast of Ireland. He is newly married and has brought his young wife to live with his widowed mother. The room is small, the ceiling is formed of the joists and flooring of the room above, the woodwork of which is brown with age and smoke. A window looks out over the sea, the furniture is simple, a small round table with three legs, a few plain homemade square seated chairs, a couch. Pictures of ships and a lugger with brown sails are hung on the walls. Mary Gorry and Kate are busy at white nets, the elder woman is seated, and the younger woman is standing at work, holding in her left hand part of the net which is stretched from an “S” hook across the room. The women work in silence, they are apparently deep in thought, thinking anxiously of the situation of the fishermen at the harbour. They know that two boats have sailed, and the men are waiting for the third boat to sail.
Enter Nan Sayle,
an old stooped hook-nosed woman. She leans heavily on a thick walking slick. She wears a clean print sun bonnet, having long strings, on her head; and a large Paisley shawl hangs in draped folds from her shoulders. She wears a clear, white and blue check apron which falls almost lo her shoes.
NAN SAYLE. Morra mie! ben thie.
MARY GORRY. Morra, morra, mie, Nan.
KATE (teasingly). Good morning, Mistress Sayle, and what have I done?
NAN (roguishly). Morra mie! Kirree veg as ben aeg thie!
KATE (smilingly). There now, that is much better, Nan.
MARY. Well, Nan, vough, and how art thou this morning? Shie sheesh.
NAN. Aw grumbling and going as they are saying (seating herself). I don’t know what is doing on me I’m that stiff and magainagh its quite a trouble for me to go down to the shore to look for a bit of drift wood for the fire, I’m in my eighty four, and I’ll allow I’m getting oul, but still I’m not oul, oul, for all.
MARY (sedately). Thou art getting on, Nan, old age is like the incoming tide it cannot be kept back.
NAN. No, we can’t on it, “thou will get leave.”
MARY. Aye, Aye “thou will get leave.”
NAN. The weather is keeping terrible coarse and glunky. There’s a wild week done, and I’m afraid that we will be hearing of sad stories from the sea.
MARY. Aw, I hope not Nan, yah, the weather was threatening for some days, and the long line boats have been kept in the harbour, and though they have not been earning, still and for all the men are safe.
NAN. And how about all the coasters poor souls?
MARY. Aw, they have been storm bound and in some safe lough or harbour we must hope, but the weather is clearing again.
NAN. The craythurs. Shelter you are saying? There’s no shelter for them, they have got to go to sea. Are’nt the boats all insured? What do the owners care? And the men are saying that the steamers are loaded heavier, and are deeper in the water till they used to be, Tom beg was telling me that if there is any sea running, a lil’ coasting steamer is like a half tide rock with the water surging over the deck. Aw, Mistress Gorry veen. There is many a home with a man missing, and many a poor child fatherless, all through the wild storm of last week.
KATE (sharply). Hush, Nan, you are very dree. You are taking all the heart out of me with your talk.
NAN. Aw, villish, thou will get leave, the wild dark weather has got into my bones, I’ve been lying awake these past nights and listening to the sound of the sea on the strand — and there is trouble in it — I always fear it when it is sobbing and moaning like that. They are telling that when the sea is crying that way, it is the voices of the drowned that we are hearing. It is a “sign.” Nan (nervously) They are saying too, that the Ben Varrey has been heard over at Niarbyl, and that is a sure sign of storm or shipwreck and loss of men on the sea.
KATE (in surprise). The Ben Varrey? the mermaid?
NAN. Aye, Kirrie, vough, the sea woman, and when she cries we may look out for trouble at sea.
KATE (incredulously). But Nan, are you sure? Our Evan says that there are no such creatures.
NAN. Evan has not seen all the creatures in the sea. There are strange and fearful things there that the eye of living man has never seen
KATE Oh Nan, Nan, I don’t know whether I want to cry or to laugh at your talk. (seriously): Now Nannie Sayle, tell me truly. Has the eye of living man ever seen a Sea Woman?
NAN (emphatically) . Aye, Aye, Kirree veen, men living to-day and that thou and I know well. There is oul Pherric Cannell, he told me that when he was a young man, going to sea, they got a sea woman in the nets one time, they were fishing in Big Bay and they had drifted with the tide in low water near Fleshwick. When they tried to pull her aboard, he said, she screamed that loud and pitiful, and threw the salt water in their faces with both her hands that he said that mortal fear came over them, and they were that frightened that they cut the net and let her go.
KATE. Are you sure?
NAN. Aye, sure, and Pherric is a praying man at the chapel, and truthful, aye and Claudy Quirk the coar man was one of the crew, and he told me the same story, word for word.
KATE (briskly). And what was she like, Nan? Was she good looking? Had she long hair?
NAN. It was just on the edge of day-break, so they had not much light to see, and then she threw the water in their faces, but they said that she was terrible sproghed, and they allowed they were afraid that they would be took at her.
MARY (calmly). There’s things “in” that we cannot understand. Maybe some of them are the servants of the Bad Man, we do not know, but we need not have any dealings with them, Nan, yah, there is One above that is ruling the sea. Aye, aye, and ruling them all, and we must leave our men in the care of the Good Man.
KATE (peevishly). Oh, dear, dear, let us talk about something more cheerful. I wonder if the “Wanderer” and “Ranger” have got safely to Ireland.
NAN. Aye, I heard at the shore wall this morning that they have got to Kingsale. They sailed at the tail of the storm, and made a quick passage. There was a telegram from Juan Roobin, the skipper of the “Ranger” saying that there was good sign of mackerel and the buyers anxious for fish, and now they are saying that there is a “hold on” in the harbour and all the fleet waiting to sail.
MARY. The weather is glunky still, but the wind is fair.
KATE. Evan says that there are about one hundred and sixty boats almost ready for sea. He says that they are going to sail this tide as they are berthed nearest to the point of the quay.
NAN (in alarm). Mechin a charis! Kirree veen, don’t let him sail third, Stop him! it’s unlucky, and no good will come of it.
MARY. We women, can’t “on” him, he will go as soon as they are ready.
NAN. They are telling me that he is going skipper this year?
KATE (proudly). Yes, the owners pressed him to take the “Dauntless.” He told me too that he is tired of hearing of the old notions of bucheragh and luck. He says that the women’s fears and foolish talk are spoiling good men, and making them timid, and I’m half inclined to think our Evan is right.
NAN. He is a “brave” boy is Evan, but he is inclined to be rash and headstrong, and men are only poor things the boghs if they are left to themselves. It’s a woman’s place to take care of them, because women are feeling the danger and seeing the harm before the men.
KATE. Nan! Nan! you are doing nothing but talking of trouble and danger and harm. Oh, do try and say something cheerful, woman. Come, come, be jannack there’s a good soul. We have had a long black, hungry winter, but it is over and gone at last, and the spring is here, and the long warm summer coming —
NAN. (mournfully). Aye, aye, and then the dark long winter will come again Aw, child millish’ it’s loth I am to trouble thee, Kirrie vough. Thou have thy own care I know, but Och, Och, I’m feeling that there’s trouble coming. I cannot explain, because I am not understanding it, but I feel it. I’m feeling it in my very soul. Kirree! Kirree veen, don’t let Evie go out third boat.
KATE (in alarm). Oh, Nan, you frighten me, what is it, Oh, you terrify me, what can I do? If Evan makes up his mind to sail, we poor women cannot keep him back. He will go.
NAN (shortly). I could stop him.
KATE. You could stop him?
NAN. Hide his clothes bag. He could not go to sea without his clothes and oil-skins, and if we could only keep him back to-day’s tide, it might break the bucheragh.
MARY. For shame of thyself, Nan, putting such notions into the poor girl’s head.
KATE. But Nan, where is the harm in his going third boat?
NAN (slowly and solemnly in a quiet voice). Achree, Achree. I cannot tell thee, but I feel it. There are many things we know, but still we don’t understand them. All the old people before now, allowed that it was unlucky.
MARY. I’m afraid its all boghned Nan.
NAN. Was it boghned when my man lost his whole train of nets before now? I tried to keep him from sailing third boat, but he would go. I begged him with tears running down my face not to go, but he put the big word on me and told me I was dealing in “bucheragh.” It was the only time he ever put that word on me. He went third, and they lost nearly all their nets and spring ropes, the third night they shot their train, and himself had a bad hand all the rest of the season, and he earned very little that year. Was that boghned, Mary? Aw, Mistress Gorry veen, if it was not for the women there would be no fear of high things, in the men. Illiam was a good man to me; he is dead this many a long year, the bogh. He used to say to me. It is the lucky sea-going man that dies at home in his bed, and is buried on the land. Well, well, himself died in his own bed, and I buried him in decency and he was put to his rest in the ou’l churchyard in the shroud that I made soon after we were married nearly sixty years ago, I spun the linen and stitched one for him and myself, and without putting a knot on the thread. It is not right to leave a knot on anything on the dead, it hampers them and brings them home to get it loosened. Mary vough, I may not be long now. If I am taken in the night-time I’m depending on thee to do the lil’ carthags for me. Thou will find all the things ready in the top drawer, I’ve kept the shroud bleached and aired and there is a pair of white knitted stockings, which I knitted as even as even, and the cap with the white border all allied, a clean handkerchief and two new pennies to weight my eyelids (cheerfully), I may be poor, but I will bet a halfpenny cracker that my things will be as white as the best of them in there. And Mary, chree, thou will find an oul kier stocking with plenty to pay for all, and thou must take what is left for thyself, and may the Good Man bless thee and all thine.
MARY (gently). Nan, vough, if thou will be called before me, we will do all that is right for thee.
NAN (cheerfully). Thank ye, thank ye, Mary. My mind is easy now, yah, and thou won’t forget to put my name on the stone. And I would like them to sing “Rock of Ages” at the door, and to the chapel.
KATE (with irritation). Oh, I wish you would not talk of such things, you have put a strange fear in me. Nan what can we do to help Evan?
NAN. I’ll tell thee Kirree, ask Evan to lash his boat to another to leave the harbour like they did last year, then there will not be a third boat.
KATE (dejectedly). He would only laugh at me, and call me foolish.
NAN. The fishermen these days are not like their fathers used to be. There was more feeling in them in the “old times.” They always lifted their hats and dropped on their knees and said a lil’ prayer when the boat left the bay and was passing the Old Cathedral, on the way to the fishing grounds.
MARY. Well Nan, all the crews still go on their knees, and say a prayer when the nets are shot, before they set the watch for the night, and if there is a “praying man” aboard he takes a prayer for all, and we women on shore don’t for get th’em either, Nan.
NAN (solemnly). Aye, Aye. There is only a plank between them and eternity.
KATE (impatiently). Well, well, there seems a bligh on you all. Let us talk of something more cheerful. Let us wish the men “Good Luck.” “Gien Mie” is that the Manx of it, Nan? And may the poorest boat divide twenty pounds for each man’s share.
NAN. Gien Mie the fleet! but thou will have to give Evan “the Herb” then. Have thou got a bit in the house?
KATE (laughing). Not a “scraveen,” and I would’nt know it from a cushag anyway.
NAN. (archly): Maybe thou are thinking it is all boghned too.
KATE (decidedly). No, I’d think anything if I thought it would be of any benefit to our Evan, and Nan, I do think that the “Herb” in the boat would not take much room, and it could not do any harm. But Evan would not take it.
NAN. Child, millish, you would put it at the bottom of his clothes bag. He would not know.
MARY. Thou could get a bit for us Nan, we are not against anything reasonable.
NAN. Aw, I’ve given lots of it away, this last week, it’s astonishing the number of women that are coming to me for it, I was over putting a sight on Nellie Comaish last week and I “lifted” three times three pieces of the Vervine, and I said a charm each time and took a prayer for Evan Gorry and his crew. Here Kirree veen put this in his clothes bag.
(Gives piece of herb to Kate).
MARY. Thank ye Nan. Here’s a six-pence. You must give silver for it I’m told.
NAN (taking the money). Well, one must not ask for anything, or make a charge, but if any money is given it is supposed to be silver, not that I am looking for it, but it would destroy the virtue to refuse what is offered. Well, well, I must be going my ways, I’ll not hinder you for you will be packing Evan’s bag it’s like (sound of whistling heard in the street, enter Hugh Radcliffe, a boy of thirteen years of age, cook of the lugger “Dauntless”).
NAN. Who is this child?
Hugh (briskly). Who are thou calling a child Nanny Sayle?
NAN. Aw child, bogh, and the sharp thou are.
HUGH. Not so much of the child, and who are ye calling a boght?
NAN. Are thou a son of Rob Radcliffe? Thou have got a regular Radcliffe nose, now, I knew thy grandfather oul Hugh Radcliffe the Geary. Thy mother’s people had a bit of pride in them. They were related to the Baldromma’s, and that’s where thou got thy sting. Aw, decent people for all.
HUGH (pertly). You are not the mistress of this house, are ye?
NAN. Aw, Millish!
HUGH. I’m not a child, and I’m not a boght, and I’m not a millish either.
NAN. No boy, thou must have fallen in the bithag crock.
HUGH. Ha nell my thiggal (I do not understand) .
NAN. Komm dy hinney my ghilley beg (Hold thy tongue, little boy). Aw, are thou going cook with Evan?
HUGH. Aye, I’m the cook, “k double o k” Kook. Now if there are any other newses ye want to know, ask me quick, for I’m on important business for our skipper.
NAN. Well, well, boy then I won’t hinder thee, “Gien Mie” Good Luck Hugh Radcliffe, and a safe passage, and may the Good Man take care of thee, and of all of us.
HUGH. She is always asking newses or calling a fellow bogh millish or talking about your grandfather or ye mother’s relations or something. I don’t want to turn on an old woman, but if I would give a rip out of me she would be frightened.
KATE (teasingly). Oh, Hugh be gentle with the poor old soul. She doesn’t mean any harm, and when she says boght and millish she means well.
HUGH. Well now, Mrs Gorry. If you had a season done at Kingsale, and the Fall fishing at the Killybegs, you would not like any old woman to be calling you child and millish before people. Now, really, would you now?
KATE. Well, Hugh, if I had been so long at sea as you, and had travelled so much and seen so much of the world as you have done, I think I should only smile and say nothing.
HUGH. Aye, there is something in that too and I would be giving a ratch out of me, only that they are saying that she has the power to put the “Augh, Augh” on ye, and I would not like her to put bad luck on us, not that I am afraid for myself — I don’t believe in it — but for our skipper’s sake, for he is a striving man is Evan.
KATE. But you know that she said good luck, and a safe passage.
HUGH (tenderly). Aye, the poor old soul, and so she did, well I’m glad I didn’t give a rip out of me for all, I would not like to frighten the poor old woman, aye and we will be old some day too — maybe.
MARY. Thou art forgetting thy message, Hugh, with all thy talk.
HUGH (innocently). Aye, they always said I was good to talk, I was always getting into trouble at school for talking. Aye, but they used to be far worse for caning boys than they are now-a-days. The boys now have far easier times at school than when I used to go before now. Aye, and we used to plague poor old “four eyes” too. We always hid the new cane up the chimney, and one time I put a hair from my eyelash on my hand when I got the cane, and I’m telling you the truth Mrs Gorry the cane split and he had to get another new one, because I have heard that there is a law against caning any boys with a split cane and oul “four eyes” was afraid that we might report him to the police. But after all he wasn’t so bad at times, aye, and sometimes he was nice, and he —
KATE (smiling indulgently). Well, thy message Hugh?
HUGH. Aye, the skipper sent me for his top boots.
MARY. Here they are Hugh.
KATE (mischievously) . You had better put them on. It will be easier to walk in them than carry them.
HUGH. These are sea boots. Not Sunday boots. You should see our skipper at sea with these boots on him. I tell you he is a fine looking fellow then, aye and us carrying the Third Lug with a reef tied down, and it blowing a clean snifta, him at the tiller meeting the puffs, and shaking her up when they come too heavy, and all the crew standing by and me with my hand on the mizzen sheets. I can tell you we will make the old “Dauntless” skite if me and Evan will get our way, no boat in the fleet will show us the road.
KATE (affecting timidity). Don’t be rash, Hugh.
HUGH (boastingly). We have got a new big lug this year, two hundred and twenty yards of No. 4 cotton canvas Mrs Gorry (proudly). What do you think of that Mrs. Gorry? Aye, and we have got the crew to frame it and dip it and the boat to carry it, and the darlin’ skipper to drive her, and the —
KATE. And the cook, don’t forget the cook.
HUGH (laughingly). Aye, they would all perish without me because I feed them, after all me and the skipper —
KATE. And the new big lug of No. 4 cotton canvas.
HUGH (protestingly). Aw, Mrs Gorry now you are making fun of me, but all
the same me and —
MARY (severely). Thou better be getting away with the sea boots, boy.
KATE. Put them on, Hughie.
HUGH. (Hugh is barefooted, he puts his little legs into the big boots, and stamps towards the door, he lifts his cab with mock politeness and standing in the doorway sings the “Outward Bound” chantie) —
“I thought I heard our ‘old man’ say
Good bye fare you well,
Good bye fare you well,
That this would be our ‘sailing day';
Good bye my lads we’re outward bound”
We’ve a jolly crew and a skipper to,
Good bye fare you well.”
(Goes off singing and his voice dies away outside) .
KATE. Evie must be nice on the boat now when the cook is so proud of him. I declare I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Nan makes me sad and despondent and Hugh cheers one, and really I feel quite warm to the boy because of his loyalty and love to Evan.
MARY. Well chree, that is like life; a mixture of laughter and tears.
KATE. Aye, but with more tears than laughter, for we women with their men at sea.
MARY. True veen, life is a struggle for the poor, and for working people.
KATE. Life is hard, cruel, I am tempted to believe that there is some truth in the old ideas, call it luck, superstition, fate, or whatever you will. Names may change but the thing remains. What is it that mocks us? We may struggle and work and fight to live, and yet after it all body and mind must grope in poverty. It is cruel, it is unjust.
MARY (reprovingly). Child veen, thou art talking wild. We are not in poverty, we are not short, we get enough to eat, and we have decent clothes and a shelter over our heads.
KATE (passionately). Food and shelter. Yes; that only. That is poverty to the soul, the cattle get that.
MARY (shocked). Villish!
KATE. Yes, we are human souls, but starved, stunted souls. The pain comes from our hunger for life, the reaching out for a full life, and we are doomed never to know it in its beauty. When the sun is setting behind the old Cathedral in the West, and before it sinks in the sea, it seems to light up a beautiful land far away. We see the hills all in a warm glow of purple and crimson and gold in an another country beyond the sea; and like that, outside of our poor stultified lives of hunger and ceaseless drudgery, there is a world of leisure, and music, and pictures, and books and travel and refinement. Yet all are forbidden to us. It is our fate to drag along through our time without having ever known what it is really like to live. Life is cruel; it is a bitter hateful imprisonment.
MARY (gently). Villish we are told of a better life to come.
KATE. We are told. We — (bursts into tears).
MARY. Don’t Katie, veen. Don’t let Evan come and find you crying, men can stand anything but a woman crying, you will make it harder for him to go away.
KATE (drying her tears). It worries me to think of our Evan going to sea. Its constant moaning makes me wretched. It is the saddest thing in nature. Other things are sometimes happy in their expression. The sound of a river rushing over its pebbly bed is cheery. The rustling of the leaves on the trees is brisk and lively. The songs of the land birds are joyous and gladsome. The young creatures are frolicsome. But everything connected with the sea is mournful. In a storm the waves rage, and the winds howl, and when they die down they sob and wail. Even during a calm there is a moaning and sighing in the surt. The sea birds shriek or cry or mew, even the Scriptures compare the wicked to the sea. “the troubled sea which is never at rest.” Just think from the time of its creation, it has never for one moment been still — at rest. — It gives me an uncanny feeling that it is a treacherous monster, always lying in wait and hungering for its prey, I hate the sea, it depresses me.
MARY. Well girl, there is comfort in our faith to fishermen and sailormen and their families, for in the better land we are told there will be “no more sea.” It is very strange, but the sea seems to call some men. I tried to get Evan a trade on land but with him even as a little boy, it always was “the boats and the sea.” He would go to sea.
KATE. I can understand a man loving the sea and facing it and fighting it, and ruling it, aye, and finding his grave there, but to women and children on shore it is a fearful thing.
MARY. Aye, chree, when Evan is at sea the thought of him is like a seed in a broken tooth, always, always, always in mind.
KATE. It is the same with me. When Evan is at sea there seems to be always something gnawing at my heart. There is in me a void — a something wanting.
MARY. Well, well, Katie girl, grumbling will not help us, let us pack Evan’s bag.
KATE. I’m loth to do it, it seems like thrusting him away to his death.
Mary (startled). To his death? What do you mean?
KATE. I don’t know. I cannot understand, but I have a strange feeling that if Evan goes away we may never see him alive again.
MARY (anxiously). Aw, child veen, don’t say such things, Nan and her talk has worried you.
KATE. No, mother, it is not that, but something happened last night which has terrified me. It had gone from me for the time, but now it has come back to me again.
MARY. What was it child?
KATE (shrinking). It frightens me to think of it.
MARY (soothingly). Tell me, chree.
KATE (with strong emotion). Last night I awoke suddenly, and lay with my eyes open in the darkness listening to Evan’s quiet breathing, my mind was wonderfully clear and alert. It appeared as if I could feel the silence and then out of the stillness came the sound of the splash of waves. Suddenly I seemed to hear a great crashing noise and above it the cry of a man’s voice. — It was Evan’s voice and then there was a great stillness.
MARY (sorrowfully). Aw child veen, a sign, a sign, but maybe it is a warning.
KATE (apprehensively). Do you understand what it means.
MARY (sadly). Aw, veen, to my sorrow, I do. Life is very hard on us. Katie, veen, before Evan was born and when his father was at sea, one night I heard a cry — it was my man’s voice, and a week later I received word that he had been lost at sea, and afterwards I found that he been washed overboard at the time I heard his cry.
KATE. Aw, Mother, Mother, we must do something (in distress). What can we do? Oh, are we helpless?
MARY (trying to comfort Kate). Maybe it is a warning and not a sign, Evan is safe with us, and maybe if we can keep him back a tide the danger will pass by.
KATE (eagerly). I believe old Nan was right. We must keep him back, we will hide his clothes bag. We won’t let him have it, and if we tease him and delay him until the boat takes the ground they will miss the tide, and then he will be safe.
MARY. He will be angry with us, but we must hinder him. Quick girl, push the things in anyhow, and I will carry it to Nell Cannell’s and leave it there. He can’t go without his clothes. We must hold him back till the tide falls. We will save him yet. (She hurriedly collects his clothing and pushes it into the long sailor’s bag).
KATE. Well it is all that we can do. We will fight his fate for him and save him yet.
MARY. Never mind folding the things Katie push them in before he comes. (they pack hurriedly without speaking, fill the bag, and the elder woman takes it in her arms and goes out).
KATE. Oh, I don’t like to behave in this way. It seems mean, I feel like a sleech, for Evan is always so straight and open in his actions, and yet something drives me. I declare I seem to be acting as if I had no will of my own, and was only a tool used by some force outside myself. Oh I am strange. I feel haunted by some heavy, unreal terror, I wish Evan was here, when he is with me I feel I could smile at the worst that fate could bring us. Here he is, I’d know his step anywhere.
(Evan Enters the Kitchen).
EVAN (with breezy manner). Ahoy! the house. Hallo! Are you alone, you look rather trie. Catty, aren’t you well?
KATE. I’d always be well if you would stay at home with me.
EVAN. Hold on a bit. I’m not quite so sure of that. Look at these shoemakers and tailors, who are always at home with the women. They weary of each other. No! No! Catty; a sailor makes the best husband. He is never home long enough for his wife to get tired of him. She always sees him at his best.
KATE. That is not best Evie, because —
EVAN. Now girl, thou can always beat me at an argument, so I’ll give in at once because there would not be time to finish it this morning. We are going out this tide.
KATE (with tremulous voice). How many boats have gone?
EVAN. Only the “Wanderer” and the “Ranger.”
KATE (putting her hands on his shoulder). You won’t go third Evie? promise me.
EVAN. Catty, we are berthed nearest the harbour mouth, we are all ready for sea, and it’s our place to go.
KATE (pleadingly). Don’t go third, Evie?
EVAN. We have a young hard working crew, and they are anxious to be off. The wind is fair, the tide is now on the ebb, why should we wait?
KATE (choking back a sob). For my sake.
EVAN (quietly, but firmly). It is for your sake I am going, girl. I must go and earn money. Now Catty, go and get my clothes bag, and where’s Mother? I want to say good bye, I must be going.
KATE- Listen if you must go to-day, why not fasten your boat to another so as to break the spell. Then there won’t be a third boat. That was done last year you know.
EVAN. Don’t encourage me to show weakness before the other fishermen. Come cheer up, don’t think of such old notions. Our Peel men are fast forgetting these old ideas, they call them boghned now.
KATE (in distress). Oh, Evan, I know, I know but still it is best to be on the safe side. I’m afraid for you, I had such a terrifying dream or something last night. I don’t want you to go and leave me alone.
EVAN (patiently). Listen girl, the Tynwald Court has appointed me Admiral of the Manx Fishing Fleet, I am on my honour to set an example to the other three thousand fishermen. Don’t pull me back, help me to be worthy. There is not time now-a-days to keep all the old customs, I know them all. It is considered bad luck to whistle at sea, it would bring wind; the correct way to bring just sufficient wind is to stick a knife in the after side of the mizzen mast. You must not turn a herring on your plate. You must not allow a woman on your boat. You must not talk about parsons or preachers at sea. It is bad luck to have a white stone in the ballast; bad luck to give anything away on a Monday morning; bad luck to wind or turn the boat against the sun. Bad luck to sail third, all boghned (seriously). I believe in doing the very best I know, and leaving all the rest to that One who holds the sea in the hollow of His hand. Then whatever comes will be right.
KATE. Oh what can I do?
EVAN. Listen, Katie, I will promise you this. If this season does not turn out well, and there is little adoing at the herrings next summer, I will give up the sea, and look for a berth on the Mersey Dock Board, and then I’ll go to sea no more, as the chanty says, Cheer up (sings).
They shipped me on a whaler bound to the Arctic Seas.
Where the cold winds blow, amid frost and snow,
And Jamaica rum it would freeze;
But worst of all I had no clothes,
And no money to buy any more,
And I often swore if I ever got back
I’d go to sea no more,
No more, no more, I’d go to sea no more,
And I often swore, if I ever got back,
I’d go to sea no more.”
KATE. Aw, Evan, you don’t take me seriously.
EVAN. Yes I do. We will take a house on the Wirral and leave this poverty-stricken Island where there is nothing but salt herring and potatoes, and go and live in a land of frozen mutton and marmalade, and when we get old live on my pension. There now, Katie, go and get my bag. The tide is ebbing and I really and truly must go (Shortly): Come girl where is my clothes bag?
KATE (confused). I hardly know. Oh Evan, I am not sure.
EVAN (perplexed). What? Hardly know?
KATE. It’s gone.
EVAN. Did the cook bring it to the boat?
KATE. No Evan.
EVAN. Where is it then?
KATE. It is not in the house.
EVAN. Come girl, don’t hinder me, the crew are waiting, and the tide is ebbing. I must sail this tide.
KATE (bewildered). Oh, what can I do?
EVAN (sternly). What can you do? Find my clothes bag, and let me get away to sea. Come, Katie, don’t tease me, trust me. What is all this fuss about?
KATE (crying). Oh, Evan you can’t get your clothes, they are hidden, so that you won’t go out third boat.
EVAN (gravely). Well, Kate, send the clothes bag on the “Guiding Star.” Jem Cannell will bring it to me. I must go, or I’ll lose the tide. Say good bye to mother for me. Good bye, little girl. Be good; don’t forget to write; think of me sometimes.
(Kisses her and goes out).
KATE (looks after him in a dazed fashion). Don’t go yet, Evan, Evie!
(Finds herself alone, looks towards the door as if expecting her husband to return, then standing in stupor she covers her face with her hands and gives way to a fit of crying).
ACT III. EVENING.
SCENE:— Minister’s Study, bare room, shelves with books, table, office arm chair and plain chairs, desk on table, with magazines, newspapers and books lying around. Rev. Arthur Smith, minister, about thirty-five years of age, seated in armchair, well down in it, with his back to the table and his heels on the mantleshelf, pipe in his mouth, a magazine in his hand, absorbed in his reading. There is a quiet tap at the door, and his wife enters; a woman of about thirty years of age, having a pleasant face, and dressed in house clothes. She closes the door behind her, comes over to her husband and touches him on the shoulder. He turns his head and without altering his position or speaking, looks up at his wife enquiringly.
MRS. SMITH. Old Captain Watterson, the harbour master is at the front door, and wishes to speak with you. Will you come down, or shall I show him into the study?
REV. ARTHUR SMITH. Dear me, Margaret if he comes in here, and inhales the odour of the incense which I have been burning on the altar of the indulgent goddess, Nicotina, he —
MRS. SMITH. Oh, Arthur, be serious, please.
MINISTER. He will assuredly think with some degree of reason that I am one of the sons of Belial, and too devout a worshipper of strange gods. Aha! verily I know the old gentleman, and my loving spouse, for once to speak the truth I do confess that I fear him, I feel abashed when in the presence of this Captain Watterson. His blue eyes appear to read my inmost and secret thoughts. He is aware of all my shortcomings. He knows all my many failings —
MRS. SMITH. Arthur please be —
MINISTER (with mock gravity). When you interrupted me, I was about to observe that he is an austere man. He doth not drink, or swear, he is not given to vain speaking; and what is somewhat remarkable in an ancient mariner, he doth eschew tobacco. He cheweth not, neither doth he smoke, indeed —
MRS. SMITH (shaking him). Listen to me. Oh, Arthur, listen.
MINISTER. Margaret, thy hasty interruptions savoureth somewhat of rudeness, and breaketh the smooth thread of my discourse. (Wife sits down). To resume, he doth not indulge in the fragrant and soothing weed in any of its varied preparations. Verily, I declare, he is a man difficult to manipulate, because he hath not one redeeming vice —
WIFE (starting up, shakes him, takes hold of his feet and swings them from their resting place). It is not a time for nonsense. Don’t keep the gentleman waiting. He appears anxious, and is very grave. Shall I show him in here? Or would you prefer to speak with him in the hall? Come, quickly, what shall I say to him? It is discourteous to leave him so long standing at the door.
MINISTER (becomes serious, jumps to his feet). Margaret, I think you had better bring him here. (Exit wife). (He knocks ashes out of his pipe, presses forefinger into the bowl, and puts pipe on the mantle piece, then he turns, takes his pipe and puts it in his pocket, hastily arranges his papers, pushes the magazines and fiction and light reading on top of the shelves; brings from shelves some heavy looking theological books, which he opens. Tap at door. Mrs. Smith and Captain Watterson appear. The harbour master is in his uniform, and stands cap in his hand).
WIFE. Captain Watterson wishes to speak with you.
MINISTER (offering his hand). How do you do Captain, come in, sit down, you don’t often favour us with a visit. (Mrs Smith brings him a chair and then turns to leave the room).
HARBOUR MASTER. I am well, thank you, Sir. Don’t go away, Mrs. Smith, stay with us, please, it may be that you will be able to advise us. I have come here on a very unpleasant — a very sad mission. (Minister leans, half sitting, on table, in a very attentive attitude). Mr Smith you will remember Evan Gorry, a young fisherman, I think he was a member of your congregation. Indeed I have heard that he was married in your chapel only within the past week.
MINISTER. Yes, I remember him distinctly. Of course, I know Evan, a handsome intelligent young skipper, and the bride was an attractive girl of quite an unusual type of beauty. I should think she is a typical Celt.
HARBOUR MASTER. Evan Gorry was master of the lugger “Dauntless” of this port. He sailed for the South West of Ireland just after mid-day. They were the third vessel to leave the harbour. There was a strong fair whole sail breeze from the North North East. They evidently made a fine run as far as the Calf Island. Abreast of the Chickens they were run down by a big Liverpool steamer. I am not giving any opinion as to which vessel was at fault. That will come out in the Board of Trade enquiry later. The fishing boat sank. All the crew are saved except the Master and the cook boy. The boy’s body has not been recovered. The body of the Master, Evan Gorry, was found and it, and the remainder of the crew of the “Dauntless” were brought back to Peel by another lugger. I fear the sad news will be a cruel blow to the wife and mother of the drowned man. His father before him was lost in a Peel schooner during a North Westerly gale in the Western Ocean in 1860. I have come to ask you to break the news to his wife, now widow, and his mother. (Minister’s wife takes out her handkerchief and weeps quietly).
MINISTER. Why, oh why, should this young man be taken in this way. One we can ill spare, a man with youth, vitality, courage, constructive, a builder of society, a clean and wholesome force in the place, and there are so many useless derelicts left. I cannot understand. It baffles me, and tries my faith sorely.
HARBOUR MASTER. Aye, it appears to us sometimes as if the devil rules.
MRS. SMITH. Oh, Arthur, what a dreadful task for you. Oh that poor, dear young wife, and that gentle mother, what a cruel blow for those poor souls (weeping).
HARBOUR MASTER (blowing his nose violently, and wiping his eyes with a large coloured silk handkerchief). I think it advisable that you should call on the poor women as quickly as possible. You know where they live. It is best that you should break the news gently before the souls hear it blurted out by some old gossip. The body is now at the quay and the fishermen are waiting a little time so that you shall have an opportunity of preparing the women before they arrive with it (stands up). The sea is cruel, Sir, always demanding the bravest and manliest as its victims. It is a bitter world for the poor. May the Lord have mercy on the lonely widowed women. Sir, I know I am asking you to undertake a task from which every man of fine feeling must shrink. Yet as a Christian minister it is your painful duty to break this dreadful news, and if yon can, say a few words of comfort to the poor things, and may God direct you and go with you — I must go — (gravely offers his hand to the minister who takes it mechanically. The wife with her handkerchief to her eyes shows the Harbour Master out, and they leave the room. Minister does not move. Voices heard at front door).
HARBOUR MASTER. Good evening, Mrs. Smith.
MRS. SMITH. Good evening, Captain Watterson.
(The minister drops into a chair by the table, and resting his face on his hand gazes absently before him).
SCENE. SAME AS ACT II.
Evening. Same stage arrangement as in morning. Lamp is lighted, a glow of warm light in the foreground where Mary and Kate are working at nets Kate stands at her work, her jeben needle in her hand in a jerrude, her eyes have a far away look and her face a worried expression.
Enter Mrs. Cannell, the neighbour at whose house Evan Gorry’s clothes bag had been left by his mother.
MRS. CANNELL. As I was saying, Mrs Cain and myself went over to the quay this afternoon to see the fleet leave for Kinsale, and it was a lovely sight. The wind was fair and strong. There was a clear blue sky with bundles of white fleecy clouds. The tide was high and all on the move, rolling and surging. The sea was a deep dark blue with short choppy white crested waves. The quay was crowded with people, fishermen’s wives and mothers, daughters and sisters, and sweethearts, who had come to see their men off for Ireland. It looked as if all the sthuggas of boys had played truant from school. Most of the shopkeepers from Michael Street, and all the publicans from the Big Street where there. One could hardly get by because of the horses and carts with ropes, nets, sails, provisions and coal and beef and barrels of biscuits and stores of every kind. Then there were carpenters rolling masts and spars on trucks, and fishermen carrying big lugs and sails on their backs, rolled in long bundles and looking like enormous caterpillars. And then in the harbour the schooners and smacks moored alongside the quay seemed to rise up like houses in the way of the luggers berthed outside. The boats were rising and falling, the blocks creaking. The Harbour Master and his mate bawling out orders; the fishermen calling to each other and singing out as they hauled on the ropes. Oh it was beautiful and stirring. It made me wish that I too, was a fisherman or a sailor. I felt that I wanted to go away with them. I felt the sea calling me too.
KATE. I’m not like that, Mrs Cannell; I think the sea is a monster, I hate it. Did you see the “Dauntless” sail.
MRS. CANNELL. Yes, Kate. Suddenly there was a commotion on the quay and everybody had it to say that Evan Gorry was going out “Third Boat,” and sure enough they hoisted their sails, and I heard some of the fishermen say that the big lug was nearly as large as the “Arrow’s” racing big lug. The crew were all young fellows and they hoisted the sails so tightly that they were full of long wrinkles and folds from top to bottom, and the crew pulled so hard on the halliards that I was afraid that something would be broken, or “carried away,” as my man says. Then the people on the quay got hold of their spring rope, and men, women and children, old and young, rich and poor, all hauled and pulled together. Then they put the rope through a sheave fixed in the timbers at the point of the quay and they ran the “Dauntless” down the harbour, and as she turned at the end of the pier with Evan standing at the tiller, the sails filled and the crowd of people cheered them as they tacked across the bay, and stood in low to the shore before they stayed and sailed away for the open channel. Oh, it was beautiful!
KATE. Aye, we went down to the shore wall and the “Dauntless” came as near to the shore as it was safe. We saw Evan steering and he waved his hand to us.
MRS. CANNELL. The Third Boat had no sooner left the harbour than all the fishermen began to hurry to get away with the tide, and then they soon went out, sometimes two or three together. Soon the harbour was all commotion and the bay full of boats all racing away for the South of Ireland, before I left the quay I overheard the Harbour Master telling some boat owners that at least one hundred and fifty boats had gone. Oh, I forgot to say that our Jack carried Evan’s bag down to their boat. They expect to sail to-night’s tide, and will give Evan his clothes bag in Kinsale. Well! well! I am a talker, amn’t I? My man often says that I would talk to the birds, I must go now. (Exit).
MARY. Well, girl, most of the fleet have gone now, and I hope they will have a good season, and that they will return again safe and sound, for after all that is the main thing.
KATE. Oh, I am miserable, I could hardly bear while Mrs. Cannell was talking so lightly. I felt that I wanted to scream. Oh, I cannot work any longer. (throws down her jeben needle). I feel as if something dreadful has happened, I have a feeling as if I was a wicked woman — just as if I had committed some awful crime. Evan has gone off to sea and we parted with misunderstanding between us. He was annoyed with me and he went off and left me, and I never wished him goodbye. I fear that I shall never meet him again, and never be able to explain that I kept back his clothes-bag because I wanted to save him. (Softly): Because I loved him. Oh! what can I do. I feel distracted. I hate the sea; I hate the sea (wails). Oh! Evan, Evan, Evan.
MARY. Don’t take it to heart so bad, veen. We did it all for the best, and Evan will understand. Thou had better write a letter to him and tell him all about our little scheme to delay him a tide. He will only laugh over it. Poor Evan, the boght never kept anger, and look how he sailed the “Dauntless” close to the shore this morning so that you could see each other, and wave good-bye. Cheer up, veen, I am going over to the factory for some more hosels, I will not be very long. (She goes out and Kate falls into a jerrude, standing with wide, open, unseeing eyes, as in a trance).
KATE. Oh! Nellie, how you startled me.
NELLIE. Why? What is wrong, Kate, you look strange, sit down yah, don’t you feel well?
KATE (piteously). Aw, I don’t know. What is it Nellie? I feel as if I have been away. (Places her hands over her face).
NELLIE (in quiet awed voice). Away, Kate? Away where?
KATE (with staring unseeing eyes). I was with Evan.
NELLIE (gently placing Kate on a chair). There, sit down and rest awhile, let me put the thread and the nets away. You won’t do any more to-night.
KATE (looking at Nellie with a wondering and questioning gaze, obeys). Oh, I am afraid, I don’t know what is the matter with me. Where am I? (More sanely): Don’t go away, don’t leave me, Nellie. I am so lonely, and so cold (shivers).
NELLIE (nervously). Aw, Catty, you make me shiver, too. You give me the feeling that someone is walking over my grave. (Rouses herself, assumes a brisk, practical manner, draws a chair towards her, and sits down by Kate, and takes her hands in her own, and gently rubs them). There, you feel better now, Catty. Come, we will put the nets away for to-night and go for a walk over on the headlands. The fresh breeze from the sea will drive all this “lownes” away. Cheer up, yah, what would your Evan say if he saw you like this? Why you should be the happiest girl in Peel. You have just married the nicest boy in the place, and one of the smartest skippers in the fleet. Guyheng! how you blushed that day at Tynwald Hill when he was presented with a gold medal for life saving during a wild storm in the Atlantic. (Teasingly): And how jealous of you all the other girls were. Why Evan wouldn’t look at any of us when you were near. (In a sharper tone): Kate, you must rouse yourself. For shame, the bride of a week, and falling into a “lowness.”
KATE (piteously). Aw, Nellie, Nellie, the bride of a week — the bride of a week. I have such a dreadful feeling that I am a widow. A maid, a bride, and a widow all within a week.
MARY. Och, Och, girls, what is the matter?
NELLIE. Aw, Mary, try and persuade Kate to leave the nets and come for a walk with me. She has been working too hard, and worrying herself over imaginary terrors.
MARY. Thou ‘re right, Nellie. Come, Catty, vough, never mind the nets, I’ll put them away, go and get thy shawl, and have a run out together. (She tidies the room, Nellie takes the shawl and places it on Kate’s shoulders. They adjust their hair and prepare to go out as Nan enters. She comes in, looks around, and without speaking, but sighing heavily, walks over to near the fireplace).
MARY. Aye, draw a chair up to the fire, Nan, aren’t you sitting?
NAN (sighing). No thank ye, Mary, vough. I’m not going to sit at all. I’m not going to stay.
MARY (enquiringly). Och! Oeh! Nan, what is doing on thee, yah?
NAN. Och, Mary vough, there is not much matter about oul Nan. My time won’t be very long at the longest. It’s others I’m thinking about.
KATE (roused, and with a startled manner). What is it Nan? There’s something wrong!
NAN (with sympathy). Och, villish, achree.
KATE (startled). What is it Nan? Tell me!
NAN. Aw, chree, there’s a Kingsale boat come back again, and she has brought bad news.
KATE (in alarm, seizes hold of the old woman by her shoulders) . Is Evan safe? (screams): Is Evan safe?
NAN. They are telling down at the quay that the “Dauntless” was run down off the Calf by a big Liverpool steamer —
KATE (shrieks). Is Evie saved?
NAN. They are saying down at the quay —
KATE (shaking the old woman, she screams). Is Evie safe?
NAN (deliberately) . They are saying down at the quay that all the crew are saved —
MARY and KATE (together). Thank God!
NAN (continuing and shaking her head slowly). Excepting the skipper and the boy. They never found the poor child, the millish, but they picked up Evan’s body and the men are coming over the shore with it now.
There is a tap at the door. Nellie goes to see who is there. The women’s faces harden into an expression of despair. Nan slips out as the minister is shown in by Nellie. He goes over to the women and takes the hands of Kate who is nearest.
Footsteps are heard outside. The women stand in a dazed altitude. Nellie goes to the door, and the minister moves aside. An old fisherman in guernsey and sea-boots comes in first, he solemnly takes Mary by the hand and places his other hand on Kate’s shoulder saying “The Lord gave, and the Lord taketh away.” Fishermen in sea boots, canvas jackets and guernseys, come in quietly bearing the body of Evan Gorry wrapped in a piece of canvas tarpaulin. They take away the canvas and pass it out to the man nearest the door, and then reverently lay the body on the little couch and withdraw. Nellie touches the minister on the arm and they both retire, leaving the young widow and the mother alone with their dead. Kate stares at the face of her dead husband, and with a moan sinks on her knees on the floor beside the couch and throws herself with arms outstretched on the breast of the dead.
The elder woman drops into a chair by the table. Her arms fall limply across the table, and with a gesture of utter despair she lays her head on her arms.
(Music “Three Fishers” or “When our hearts are bowed in woe.”)
Boghned — foolishness.
Yn luss — The herb.
Scraveen — A small portion.
La, yah, veen, vough, villish, grain bogh, millish, chree, achree, etc. — Terms of endearment.
Juan, Illiam beg — John, son of little William.
Traa dy Ihioor — Time enough.
Took — Mysterious disappearance.
Morra mie, ben thie — Good day, house-woman.
Kirrie veg, ben aeg thie — Dear little Kitty young house-woman.
Shie sheesh — Sit down.
Magainagh — Clumsy, awkward.
Oul, oul — Extreme old age.
A sign — Premonition of harm.
Sproghed — Vindicitive .
Bad man — Evil one.
Bucheragh — Witchcraft.
Jannock — Jovial.
Carthagyn — Chores.
Gien mie — Good luck.
Sniftha — Strong breeze.
“Life is hard, cruel, I am tempted to believe that there is some truth in the old ideas, call it luck, superstition, fate, or whatever you will. Names may change but the thing remains.”
Christopher Shimmin’s tragic play, The Third Boat, about the defiance of tradition by a Peel fisherman, is a heart-breaking play which shows another side to Shimmin’s brilliance as a playwright.
The story of The Third Boat is based around the traditional Manx superstition that the third boat to leave the harbour will receive bad luck. Set at around the end of the 19th Century, the characters of the play are torn between belief in the old ways and trust in modern eschewing of superstition. It is this conflict in beliefs between the fishermen and the women at home that sets up some of the most touching and heartbreaking scenes that has ever been seen on the Manx stage.
As well as for the obvious brilliance of the piece, this play is interesting in presenting most clearly many of Shimmin’s key beliefs and interests as a Manx nationalist playwright and Labour Party member. Having been first performed in 1915, The Third Boat was not published until 1931, and the play gives some of the most movingly nostalgic and heartfelt scenes of Manx life of all of his plays – it is these depiction of the fishermen leaving Peel harbour and the tender love between Evan Gorry and his wife that set up one of the most brilliant if harrowing scenes in one of the Isle of Man’s most perfectly crafted tragic plays.
MARY. Well chree, that is like life; a mixture of laughter and tears.
KATE. Aye, but with more tears than laughter, for we women with their men at sea.
MARY. True veen, life is a struggle for the poor.
Christopher Shimmin lived from 1870 until 1933 and was at various times a sailmaker, a sanitary inspector, a monumental mason, a Manx Labour Party founder, a Union leader, a tea-totaller, and a politician. But one thing he remained throughout all of his life was a strong believer in all things Manx. These factors coloured his writing of plays and short stories which would cause others to regard him as the Isle of Man’s greatest playwright.