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T’was the wreck of the Northwestern

By Jemima Hamilton: Heritage Interpreter, Museum at Campbell River

By Jemima Hamilton: Heritage Interpreter, Museum at Campbell River

T’was December 14th on the chilly North Island,

Where mountains meet valley and ocean meets dryland,

The sheep were in bed, and so were the cows,

And so were the chickens, donkeys, and sows,

The children were nestled all snug in their beds;

While visions of Christmas feasts filled up their heads,

All the Quadrites in their kerchiefs, their nightgowns and caps,

Had just settled their heads for a long winter’s nap,

When out on the shore there arose such a clatter,

They sprang from their beds to see what was the matter.

Away to the beach they all flew like a flash,

Not forgetting their wellies — they had just heard a splash.

Through the snow and the hail those beachcombers trudged,

To find the SS Northwestern stuck at Cape Mudge,

From Seattle to Alaska the ship was a’going,

But veered too far east, since the wind was a’blowing,

The passengers on their way up to Alaska,

Were now sure they would get no gifts from Santa,

They were stuck in a blizzard in the middle of nowhere,

Seasick and cold; a Christmas week nightmare!

The wind was still howling from the south to the east,

The passengers exclaimed, “This storm is a beast!”

When what to their wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature tugboat, and some men in rain gear.

In rescue boats they went, the rich and poor,

And were met with a dance, once dry and on shore,

A warm meal from the Willows, mouth-watering and hardy

Got them all ready for a ‘River style party,

Back on the ship, the food was bound to go stale,

Or rot, or grow mold, and make someone ail,

These consequences, you see, could not be ignored,

So they threw every packet and sack overboard,

The beach was thus lined with hams, chickens, and turkeys,

Bags of flour, canned goods, and even some jerky,

Word got around to come down to the beach,

To collect all the food you would need for a feast,

Some families got teapots, and others got gum,

Some people took eggs, flour, oranges, and rum,

And some people took coffee to fill up their mugs,

Some families got gallons of wine in a jug,

The officer aboard, all filled with presumption,

Yelled to the settlers “Not fit for consumption!”

He threatened them all it’s the law they were breaking,

But according to custom, it’s free for the taking!

So people ate oranges though they were quite wet,

Which made some shopkeepers very upset,

The police searched the houses, they looked high and low,

But the people on Quadra had nothing to show,

Albert Bigold from Quadra was just seven years old,

He remembers his father hiding wine in the cold,

One day, five years later, he uncovered a jug,

That had been in a hay bale, hidden by mud

On the Campbell River shore, the stranded awaited,

The SS Alameda was not the least bit belated,

The guests were heading up to Alaska at last,

And the Quadrites got their presents, a feast, and a laugh,

The captain sprang to wheel and blew the boat whistle,

The people waved from the shore, a jolly dismissal,

The passengers exclaimed, ere they sailed out of sight,