The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #49340   Message #3163072
Posted By: MikeG24
31-May-11 - 09:32 AM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: Red Iron Ore / Derry down, down
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Red Iron Ore / Derry down, down
@Jim -

> [* My guess is that "the north passage" refers to one of the
> channels of the St. Clair River, which forms a delta where it
> flows into Lake Saint Clair, between Lake Huron and Lake Erie.]

This is what I thought for a long time, however, after doing some research, I have come to the conclusion that the song does not refer to the "North Channel" between Algonac and Anchor Bay, rather the passage between Pelee Island and Point Pelee. I say this due to the following. First, a Supreme Court brief from ~1886 which talks about the Burlington towin the Vanetta through "north passage"

See: Supreme Court Reporter

Next, the following book about Sailing directons on Lake Erie, places the now defunct "Dummy Light" a couple miles south on the tip of Point Pelee, on what is known as the Pelee Spit. The light was called "Pelee Spit Light" or the Dummy. See page 53 in this book:

See: Sailing Directions

Finally, if you have a look at the following chart: Chart 14830 You will see that there is a passage called "SOUTH PASSAGE" between South Bass Island and Catawba Island. I find it reasonable that people referred to PELEE PASSAGE as "NORTH PASSAGE". This location for "NORTH PASSAGE" in the song makes much more sense to me than the North Channel. First, the lyric is:

We went through North Passage - O Lord, how it blew!
And all round the Dummy a large fleet there came too
The night being dark, Old Nick it would scare
We hove up next morning and for Cleveland did steer

Which makes it seem as though "North Passage" and "Dummy (light)" are in close proximity. As well as, the next morning they simply headed straight for Cleveland.

Also, I wouldn't expect these ships to go out of their way into Anchor bay. I would think those ships would take the more direct South Channel into Lake St. Clair, even though, I am sure the St. Clair Cutoff did not exist at the time! Also, the "PELEE PASSAGE" sounds like it would be much rougher than the relative calm of the "North Channel".

Anyway, that is how I see it! :-)