SS Onega


Who has not heard of that gallant band
Who all were drowned on Coldbackie sand.
The Captain, Mate and every hand
Did breathe their last on that stormy strand.

When the stately Onega left Dundee
She was manned grand to sail the sea,
A braver crew you could not see
Tho you sailed from Tongue to Trinconillie.


Their wives and friends they bade adieu,
to take the Atlantic and sail it through,
but alas, their friends shall ever rue
that the Onega sailed with her faithful crew.


With a blowing breeze they left the shore
and through the Atlantic they bravely bore,
with burning prow they made the gore
the wind and waves did try them sore.

In Montreal bay at length they moored
and general cargo they then secured,
of butter and flour etc stored,
and to Britain then their course renewed.


With happy hearts they ploughed the main,
with hopes of returning home again,
they spread their sails but never regained
the shore they left, what heart-rending pain.

The winds did blow and the seas did roar,
of knots an hour they were running a score,
oer billows high and oceans hoar
till of Cape Wrath at last they bore.


Wave after wave did drive them sore,
they had every chance of being driven ashore,
but each man did his duty and more,
till life was gone forever more.

While ploughing their way off Farr, I would say
the waves did wash their bulwarks away,
hands, rigging and all are heavy with spray
you would take them for lost without delay.

But fortune on them for a while did smile
As they beat off the shore for more than a mile,
and the Onega clove the gurgling defile,
till at last they reached the Rabbits Isles.

At last they reached the anchoring ground,
The rocks did ring with storm around,
then sorrow no doubt began to abound
and hearts in despair were beating loud.


The elements all seemed to combine,
the worn-out tars most hard to entwine
while riding sore on the heaving brine,
the Onega's mooring began to decline.

A flag of distress was then hoisted high
and many a Person, heaved a sigh
as the Onega dragged, but none could try
to render help or answer cry.

The morn had come, what an awful tale,
The Onega smashed by the raging gale,
And many a Celt from hill and dale
When they saw the sight, turned ghastly pale.


Three were found on the bowsprit drowned
to get them off with success was crowned,
a fourth that week on the sands was found,
all four were buried in sheet and shroud.

Next Sunday morn, not far from land
a maiden herding with crook in hand,
the captain’s corpse, I now understand,
saw floating and nearing Roan Island.


The sea at the time ran mountainous high,
who would take a venture for a friend to die,
but the Islanders brave at once did try
to launch a boat and on God rely.

With their little boat in the raging bore
the captain’s corpse they brought ashore,
three more were found within an hour,
all four were wrapped in sheet and shroud.

To see them buried they soon took charge,
nobly that duty they did discharge,
shoulder high with the bier they marched
by moor to Tongue a company large.

In Tongue churchyard where the eight are laid,
side by side their graves were made,
there they rest in the sylvan shade
reminding all of a bitter fate.



The wreck of the Onega was written by a man from Strathen Skerray.

The maiden mentioned was the grandmother of the late Donald Macdonald
postman for the Island, who latterly resided at Clashleven Skerray.


 The poem has been referred to as both
"The Stately Ship Onega" or  "The Wreck of the Onega"

The transcript that is written above refers to "The wreck of the Onega"

Below are links for further information about the wreck.