Eleanor Prentiss Creesy: Marblehead, MA to San Francisco, CA 1814-1900
Navigator of the Flying Cloud. The ballad of the Flying Cloud is one of the great works of maritime traditional song. My band, the Gloucester Hornpipe and Clog Society, was once invited to sing for the East Boston Library to celebrate the restoration of a 1930s frieze of paintings that included the Flying Cloud, the pride of the East Boston shipyards. The band protested that the traditional ballad wasn't about OUR Flying Cloud! So I made a version that is.
My name was Nellie Prentiss, as you may understand
I was born ten miles from Boston town, in Marblehead’s fair land,
When I was young and' comely, sure, good fortune to me came,
My husband loved me tenderly, Josiah Creesy was his name.
My father was a mariner, a master of his trade,
He taught me navigation, the horizon I surveyed
I shot the moon and the Northern star with my sextant bright and true
Till I shipped on board the Oneida as a nurse to all the crew.
It was in the yards of East Boston town we met Donald McKay
The builder of The Flying Cloud, with her masts that scraped the sky,
My man Josiah took her helm and from New York we did go
Sixteen thousand miles around the Horn to Califor-ni-o.
Now I became a shellback in the year of fifty-one
The fastest ship from Sandy Hook had made a record run
In two days less than e’er before I found we’d crossed the line
I did my calculations o’er to prove the right was mine.
Off Tierra del Fuego we ran our easting down
The Roaring Forties racked her ‘til the men were like to drown
Through storm and fog I set our course, at night I took no rest
For the saying of my captain was, her dead reckoning’s the best.
With Gold Rush records to be won, our own record we reversed
Sixteen hours less than ninety days, we dropped our anchor first
We caught the Hornet two days out, not even an hour late
The Andrew Jackson never beat us through the Golden Gate.
The Flying Cloud was a Boston ship, fifteen hundred tons and two,
She could outsail any clipper ship the world it ever knew
With her canvas white as the driven snow, set sails of twenty-eight
She was sharp and broad, uncommon swift, in all things she was great.
When my man he came home from war, ‘twas to find the Black Ball Line
Cut down her spars and trimmed her sails and sent her to the Tyne
She ran from Deal to Melbourne Town all under Captain Baines
She carried lumber from Shelburne, from Gravesend to Brisbane.
She broke her back on Beacon Bar and they burned her to the rails
They sold her soul for copper and her heart for iron nails
No more she’ll fly before the wind and race before the storm
Forever may her record stand for the rounding of the Horn.
Farewell unto the Flying Cloud, that ship I do adore,
I'll never shoot the stars again nor round the Horn no more,
But sextants, storms, salt air, and ships have made a life for me,
Young ladies, lesson by me take and boldly go to sea.