November 29, 1875
On the night of November 29, 1875, the Schooner Waterwitch left St. John’s bound for her homeport of Cupids with 25 souls on board. She never made it to Cupids; in the middle of a blinding snowstorm she struck rocks just north of Pouch Cove.
In the local St. John’s newspaper, The Times, the Anglican Minister of Pouch Cove, Reginald Johnson wrote:
“We had a frightful wreck here last night. The schooner Waterwitch, … to and belonging to Cupids, in the Bay, total loss. There were 25 souls on board, – out of which we saved only 13. I was on the spot soon after the terrible news reached the houses, and helped to haul up the survivors. Every man was hauled up fast to about 100 fathoms line, as the wreck could not be approached. We could hear their cries all night below us. It was frightful! The people have behaved nobly ….”
The loss of the 12 men and women on that cold November night is celebrated in song and story with much of the credit for the rescue of the survivors, given to Alfred Moores of Pouch Cove. He allowed himself to be lowered to the ship by a rope from an overhanging cliff so that he could carry the people to safety.
Also recognized for their role in the daring rescue were David Baldwin, Eli Langmead, William Noseworthy, and Christopher Mundy.
The horror of the night is told in the verses of the song the Waterwitch that is still song in Pouch Cove.
But, hark! Another scream is heard, the people get a shock,
Another female left below to perish on the rock;
When Alfred Moores makes another dash, as loud the wind do roar,
And brings a woman in his arms in safety to the shore.
The town of Cupids went into deep mourning; nine of the dead were from their small place.
A year after the tragic event Governor and Lady Glover at Government House, St. John’s presented Alfred Moores with the Silver Medal of the Royal Human Society. The other four were presented with the bronze medal for their heroic effort. The present location of the medals is not known.
Recommended Museum: The Pouch Cove Museum located in the Town Hall has a small exhibit commemorating the sinking of the Waterwitch. The Cupids Legacy Centre has a model of the Waterwitch as well as a piece of the original wreck.
Recommended Song: Sung by Richard Moores [d.1975] of Pouch Cove, NL (son of the song’s hero, Alfred Moores) and published in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada © 2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA). http://www.wtv-zone.com/phyrst/audio/nfld/01/witch.htm
Recommended Book: The Loss of the Waterwitch & Other Tales by Eldon Drodge, 2010, Breakwater Press.