It was homeward bound one night on the deep
Swinging in my hammock I fell asleep
I dreamed a dream and I thought it true
Concerning Franklin and his gallant crew.
With a hundred seamen he sailed away
To the frozen ocean in the month of May
To seek that passage around the pole
Where we poor sailors do sometimes go.
Through cruel hardship his men did go
His ship on mountains of ice was drove
Where the Eskimo in his skin canoe
Was the only one who ever came through.
In Baffin Bay where the Whale fish blow
The fate of Franklin no man may know
The fate of Franklin no tongue can tell
Lord Franklin along with his sailors do dwell.
And now my burden it gives me pain
For my long lost Franklin I'd cross the main
Ten thousand pounds would I freely give
To know on earth that my Franklin do live.
Kennedy, D (1987) Martin Carthy: A Guitar in Folk Music
. Petersham, New Punchbowl Music
From the Notes to The Carthy Chronicles
(Free Reed Records, 2001):
A big ballad with a dateable background, Lord Franklin tells the story of a failed attempt to find the Northwest Passage in 1845. Sir John Franklin set sail on May 19 and reached Greenland safely. Trouble came with the arctic winter. For 10 months, his two ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror remained locked in the ice and three of the crew died. The next summer was short, and the crew made only another 350 miles before becoming ice-bound again. In 1848, spring failed to arrive. Sledding parties were sent out but did not return and eventually the crew of 105 survivors set off for the Great Slave Lake some 900 miles away. None survived, and before all were dead, they had resorted to cannibalism. Recent discoveries have revealed that they may have been early victims of modern food packaging. Franklin?s expedition was the first to rely on tinned food and it appears their supplies were shoddily manufactured and sealed. Add to that the fact that their fuel supplies ran low and, economising, the crew may have eaten food that was inadequately cooked. The 150-year-old mystery which this song commemorates has thus been rationalised.
No information as to where this was collected, but A. L. Lloyd collected a similar version
which may well be Carthy's source.
For more information on the Franklin Expedition see The Fate of Franklin
(Search Roud index at VWML)