Henry's Songbook

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Ewen And The Gold

  • Brian McNeill
  • For all the gold Ewen Gillies ever found
    Could not buy him peace or freedom
    From the memory of the sound
    Of the waves on St. Kilda's rocky shore

    You caught the line they threw you, you helped to make her fast
    You heard the sailors talking in the rigging
    When the captain said he'd take another hand before the mast
    You knew you were halfway to the diggings
    So you rode the ocean's swell to Bendigo and living hell
    In the camps and the creeks of Castlemaine
    For like a million other souls you were haunted by the gold
    And you'd never know a peaceful day again
    And tell me, Ewen Gillies, did you still believe the dream
    When the hard men of Victoria bought and sold you
    When you had to sell the farm that you'd sifted from the seams
    Did you curse the tale the sailor laddies told you
    And did you fight against the call of the island
    That you knew would never hold you

    And when the dream was done you'd lost your children and your wife
    And every single thing you ever had
    But you told your friends the gold was still the centre of your life
    And they told you, one and all, that you were mad
    So you wandered through the years, never stopping once to rue
    And St. Kilda saw your footsteps as you passed
    Old Glory even put you in a coat of faded blue
    Till the older glory claimed you back at last
    And tell me, Ewen Gillies, did you give the Lord your thanks
    When he told you where the golden riches lay
    Or did you bow your head in prayer on the Sacramento banks
    And ask Him should you go or should you stay
    And did St. Kilda call you home across the mountains
    At the dawn of every day

    Again you made the journey to that bare and barren land
    To end your days among your kith and kin
    To a winter when the Devil held the island in his hand
    And the shadow of starvation rode the wind
    But it's hard upon St. Kilda for the folks to keep their pride
    When every season brings them to despair
    And to hear you tell the tale of a different ocean's tide
    Made their bitter burden harder still to bear
    So though they knew you for their own you were forced to stand alone
    In a solitude that no man could endure
    They made your home a living grave until the bravest of the brave
    Was forced to leave the poorest of the poor
    So you reached out once again and took hold of
    The bonnie golden lure

    When first I heard the tale of Ewen and the gold
    I was filled with bitter anger and with tears
    To see a travelling man return and then be shut out from the fold
    Drove a shaft into the deepest of my fears
    For God made Ewen Gillies, God gave him wings to fly
    But only from the land where he belonged
    But I'd fight with God himself for the light in Ewen's eye
    Or with any man who tells me he was wrong
    For there's men who use their dreams to tear themselves apart
    And there's men who never find a dream at all
    But how many find the courage to look deepest in their heart
    To find a dream they can follow till they fall
    And when my heart cries out to wander I can hear him
    Answering the call

    Final chorus:
    And on the island the greatest story ever told
    It was always Ewen Gillies
    California and the gold
    So far from St. Kilda's rocky shore

    Old Glory - affectionate name for the American flag

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1975:] [In 1871 Ewen Gillies] was welcomed enthusiastically by the islanders, but to a man who had been round the world St Kilda offered little, and after only four weeks Ewen and his children set sail for America. [Eleven years later] he proved too much for the St Kildans, and after a short stay he found himself no longer welcome. [...] He had, however, stayed long enough on the island to fall in love with a local girl. His second bride found the Australian climate little to her liking and was homesick. Eight months later the couple were again on St Kilda. The St Kildans, distrustful of his wisdom and overpowering self-assurance, finally forced him and his wife to leave. (Tom Steel, The Life and Death of St Kilda 35f)

  • [1991:] Ewen Gillies (1825-?) was born in the unlikeliest place for an adventurer - Scotland's remotest island, St. Kilda. The St. Kilda archipelago lies a hundred miles to the north west of the Scottish mainland, a beautiful but inhospitable place of long winters and fierce winds. Its last thirty-six inhabitants were finally forced to leave in 1930, after a long struggle against bitter hardship and falling birthrate - but for at least a thousand years before that, St. Kilda was Scotland's most remote settlement. So remote, in fact, that even to use the word 'Scotland' in the context of the place is almost an irrelevance. For centuries the people of St. Kilda were self-sufficient, living mainly on a diet of seabirds, almost free of the outside world, taking an interest in it only as they needed to and adopting its ways only when it suited them. Once a year, weather permitting, the laird's factor would land and take his master's share of their produce, but otherwise it was a place which history had a habit of passing by. When a government expedition came searching for the fleeing Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1746, not only had the islanders never heard of him, they had never heard of his opponent either, the Hanoverian King George in London; if only the rest of Scotland had been as lucky ... And other so-called 'civilising' influences were just as tardy; the coin of the realm, for instance, was only introduced after the industrial revolution. No St. Kildan ever had to die fighting for his country. Crime was unknown. When passing ships arrived, the first question was inevitably, "Is there a war?"

    All of which makes the history of Ewen Gillies all the more remarkable. Ewen was 26 when he left St. Kilda with his wife, bound for Australia - and within six months of his arrival there, he was in the goldfields of Victoria, where, remarkably, he found gold - enough to buy a farm, but not quite enough to keep it going. Inside two years the property was gone, and he was off to another goldfield, the New Zealand one, leaving wife and children behind in Melbourne. This time, though, he returned penniless, only to discover that his wife, convinced she'd been abandoned, had remarried. Ewen's response was to take ship for America. There, he joined the Union Army, fought in the Civil War, and then deserted in 1861, again to look for gold, this time in California - and this time he found enough to make his fortune. He went back to Australia, reclaimed his children, and returned to St. Kilda - and lasted just five weeks on the island before the wanderlust took him again. Once more he headed for the United States, and it was to be another eleven years before St. Kilda would draw him back. On this occasion he only stayed long enough to marry another St. Kilda girl, and then he was off again to Melbourne. When his new bride didn't like Australia, however, he decided that it was time to come home for good - but this time the results were tragic. Instead of him rejecting St. Kilda, the islanders rejected him - Ewen Gillies had become too worldly a man, too disruptive an influence for such a small community to contain, and in 1889 he and his new bride were forced to leave. Soon after, no one knows exactly when, he died in Canada. (Brian McNeill, The Back o' the North Wind 21)

    [1999:] 7 April - the day in 1851 when John Lister and William Tom discovered the first viable goldfield in Australia at Ophir near Bathurst. It attracted immigrants from around the world. (Christopher Zinn, Observer, 11 Apr)

Quelle: Scotland

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aktualisiert am 27.10.1999