A Scillonian Prayer:

“We pray thee O Lord, not that wrecks should happen

But if any wrecks should happen

Thou wilt guide them to the Scilly Isles

For the benefit of the poor inhabitants.”

This is a folk song or rather the lyrics of a folk song…or maybe a poem with a chorus. On a visit to the Isles of Scilly, I was walking the perimeter of St Mary’s, the largest island, when I arrived at Porth Hellick beach where I discovered the following story…of a lost ring, a famous admiral washed ashore from a shipwreck and a contrite woman.

Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell

A FINE EMERALD RING

I sent my girl off to St Mary’s church

For to fetch to my bedside the priest.

As knowing I am not long for this world;

With my Maker I need to seek peace.

Father, for my soul’s sake, unburden me.

It’s been some thirty years I’ve seen pass

Since I did commit a terrible sin

Which I need you to hear me confess.

I have in my keeping a tragic prize

An infamous and sought-after thing.

There in her hands was an old wooden box

Which held naught but an emerald ring.

CHORUS

Green, the colour of his fine emerald ring;

As green as the envy that burned in my eyes.

Why should his like, have that sort of thing;

When for their lack a child of mine dies?

It was on a damp, cold October morn

That the Lord took my two-year-old son.

And me in need of solace and succour

Sought out the cliffs to find myself some.

The peace and quiet that I so desired

It seemed to be so far from my reach.

As wreckers picked at the washed up remains

Of some poor souls found on Hellick beach.

Others came running to get what they could;

All but my own were there on the strand.

I climbed over rocks to find my heartsease

And that’s when I saw his outstretched hand.

CHORUS

Green, the colour of his fine emerald ring

As green as the envy that burned in my eyes

Why should his like have that sort of thing?

When for their lack a child of mine dies

I passed two young boys spread out on the sand

As dead as meat in a mutton pie.

An emerald ring is no recompense

When you’ve just watched your poor infant die.

So, I reached for that hand and cursed my luck

As his breath raised bubbles in the brine;

For wreckers cannot rob a living man.

But did God not take a life of mine?

As weak as the babe who I could not feed,

I lay on him in that silent place.

When no struggle came, I motioned his head

So the tide would soon cover his face.

CHORUS

Green, the colour of his fine emerald ring

As green as the envy that burned in my eyes

Why should his like, have that sort of thing?

When for their lack a child of mine dies

The value alone that this ring possessed

For such as me, a lifetime of wealth.

Imagine how good a table I’d keep

And my children thrive in better health.

How I wrestled the conflict within me;

To sin or suffer in penury?

A more desperate fight than he could raise

To save his life or jewellery

Broke free of the sea upon Hellick shore

Should I be the one the Lord indicts?

It came up the beach to finish the job

I just helped it claim its wreckers’ rights.

CHORUS

Green, the colour of his fine emerald ring;

As green as the envy that burned in my eyes.

Why should his like have that sort of thing,

When for their lack, a child of mine dies?

Good Admiral, I crave your forgiveness

‘Twas not the sea that left you for dead

But the desperation and poverty

Of a wretched Scillonian maid.

Maybe God, will pardon me for my sin?

That ring has brought nothing but sorrow.

Father, I beg, intercede for me please

For my place in heaven tomorrow.

The zealous search to recover this ring

Made it a burden throughout my life.

Stuck in a box until my dying day;

Give it back to the Admiral’s wife.

CHORUS

Green, the colour of his fine emerald ring

As green as the envy that burned in my eyes

Why should his like, have that sort of thing?

When for their lack a child of mine dies

Why should his like, have that sort of thing?

When for their lack a child of mine dies.

Photo Hellick Beach by Mr Joel’s Photography /Flickr