"If you can't get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance"
-George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Growing up in Michigan and having the last name of Fitzgerald, I was frequently asked if my Grandpa's name was Edmund.  No, his name wasn't Edmund, it was Thomas.
SS Edmund Fitzgerald Courtsey of NOAA
The challenge this week for GeneaBloggers is to write about a song or poem that has some signficance to your ancestors of to the area where your ancestors lived.  For me "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" has always had a special interest even though, as far as I know, there is no relation between me and the famous ship's namesake.
The ship sank in Lake Superior in November during a storm.  It is unknown for sure what happened that illfated day, but all on board were lost.  I have visited the Whitefish Point Museum where several artifacts from the Fitzgerald have been brought up.  More information Here on the Fitzgerald.
The song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" by Gordon Lightfoot, gives a haunting account of the sinking...

"The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald"
by Gordon Lightfoot

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down

Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy.

With a load of iron ore - 26,000 tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early

The ship was the pride of the American side
Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin
As the big freighters go it was bigger than most
With a crew and the Captain well seasoned.

Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
And later that night when the ships bell rang
Could it be the North Wind they'd been feeling.

The wind in the wires made a tattletale sound
And a wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the Captain did, too,
T'was the witch of November come stealing.

The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the gales of November came slashing
When afternoon came it was freezing rain
In the face of a hurricane West Wind

When supper time came the old cook came on deck
Saying fellows it's too rough to feed ya
At 7PM a main hatchway caved in
He said fellas it's been good to know ya.

The Captain wired in he had water coming in
And the good ship and crew was in peril
And later that night when his lights went out of sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours
The searchers all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
If they'd put fifteen more miles behind her.

They might have split up or they might have capsized
They may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the ruins of her ice water mansion
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams,
The islands and bays are for sportsmen.
And farther below Lake Ontario
Takes in what Lake Erie can send her
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
With the gales of November remembered.

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
In the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral
The church bell chimed, 'til it rang 29 times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
Superior, they say, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early.


  1. Great choice, Alanna. My sister and her
    husband were out in Michigan this summer and
    visited a museum. I'm wearing the "Edmund Fitzgerald" teeshirt they bought me even as I type this(under a sweatshirt and hoodie. It's cold this morning ). And the song has long been a favorite of mine.
    Thanks for participating!

  2. Here's a recent article that appeared in the Detroit Free Press on the Fitzgerald:

  3. Love this song! I've got it on the CD in my car, trying to memorize the lyrics- now you've got them here in print!

  4. I haven't thought about that song in a long time. I remember listening to it when it first came out. Thanks for the memory.

  5. Enjoyed this, Alanna. Have always loved rolling the words "The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald" around on my tongue! A proud ship and crew and sad loss.

  6. I am a Colerick in Kingsport, TN and indeed w/like to have a Fitzgerald 'T'-shirt!