Perhaps the finest of the tragic sea ballads, 'The Flying Cloud' has appeared in many different collections (e.g. Colcord, Doerflinger and MacColl & Seeger). A confession ballad, (a common theme in broadside publications) its fuller versions tell a gruesome tale of slavery and piracy on the high seas. This one is more condensed, with only one verse referring to the piratical exploits for which the narrator is condemned to death. Published in 'Northeast Folklore', 8, 1966, this version of the song comes from Martha's Vineyard, where it was collected by Gale Huntington. We learned it from the singing of Helen Schneyer of Kensington, Maryland.
My name is Edward Hallowhan, as you will understand,
I come from County Waterford in Erin's native land,
When I was young and in my prime, good fortune on me shone,
My parents loved me tenderly, I was their only son.
One day as I walked down the street of Waterford's fair town,
I met a seaman, strong and bold, a seaman of renown,
This seaman's name I'll tell to you, for it was William Moore,
'Twas better far my soul had died than to sail with him, 'tis sure.
We sailed away one summer's day, and to Africa we came,
'Twas there we stole 500 blacks, it was there I learned that game,
We marched them all along the deck, and stowed them down below,
Scarce eighteen inches to a man was all they had to go.
We sailed away the very next day, our hold was full of slaves,
And better far that they were dead and buried in their graves,
For death and sickness came on board, and stole them half away,
We dragged the dead upon the deck and threw them in the sea.
We sailed away for many a day till we came to Cuba's shore,
We sold them to the planters there to slave for evermore,
The rice and sugar cane to hoe, beneath that burning sun,
To lead a sad and wretched life till their dark days were done.
We robbed and plundered many a ship all on the Spanish Main,
And many a sailor's widow now in sorrow doth remain,
For all the crews did walk the plank, to find a watery grave,
For the saying of our master was: Dead men can tell no tales.
So now to Newgate we are come, bound down in iron chains,
For slaving, and for robbing ships all on the Spanish Main,
'Twas William Moore, that wicked man, who made this wretch of me,
So all young men this warning take: Beware of slavery!