“The Persian's Crew”


The Persian sets out [from Chicago] and disappears on Lake Huron. Since nothing is known of the wreck, the singer can only wonder at and lament the fate of the lost crew


According to Beck, possibly composed by the daughter of Dan Sullivan, the _Persian's_ first mate. - PJS

I suspect something rather more complicated, given the handful of melodies for this piece. Laws lists four melodies, two in Rickaby and one in Colcord. Rickaby's first, from Dean, is approximately "Tramps and Hawkers." His second, from Art C. Milloy, has a somewhat similar shape but but is mixolydian and not necessarily related. And Colcord has yet another tune with similar shape but distinct tonal differences.

This may be the result of some slight confusion about just what happened. According to William Ratigan, _Great Lakes Shipwrecks & Survivals_, revised edition, Eerdmans, 1977, p. 98, "the schooner _Persia_ went down with all hands" in November 1869 (a memorable storm which also destroyed the _Volunteer_ and other ships), and inspired a song (presumably this).

And yet, Bruce D. Berman's _Encyclopedia of American Shipwrecks_, Mariner's Press, 1972, p. 257, does not even list the _Persia_ as a Great Lakes shipwreck. He does note the screw steamer _Persian_ (note the presence of the n at the end; the ship wrecked in 1869 was _Persia_, not _Persian_). The _Persian_ burned near Long Point, Ontario, in August 1875. Long Point is in Lake Erie, not Lake Huron, but might it have contributed to some confusion? - RBW

Cross references


  • Stanley Baby, "The 'Persian's Crew" (on GreatLakes1)


  1. Laws D4, "The Persian's Crew"
  2. Colcord, pp. 203-204, "The Persia's Crew" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Rickaby 46, "The Persian's Crew" (1 text plus a fragment, 2 tunes)
  4. Dean, pp. 29-30, "The Persian's Crew" (1 text)
  5. Beck 86, "Lake Huron's Rock-Bound Shore" (1 text)
  6. DT 677, PERSIACR
  7. Roud #2230
  8. BI, LD04


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1922 (Dean)
Keywords: ship storm death
Found in: US(MW) Canada(Ont)