Up North

Year: 1885

by Mary Hannay Foott   

Into Thy hands let me fall, O Lord –
Not into the hands of men –

And she thinned the ranks of the savage horde
Till they shrunk to the mangrove fen.

In a rudderless boat, with scanty store
Of food for the fated three –
With her babe and her stricken servitor
She fled to the open sea.

Oh, days of dolor and nights of drouth,
While she watched for a sail in vain,
Or the tawny tinge of a river mouth,
Or the rush of the tropic rain.

The valiant woman! Her feeble oar
Sufficed, and her fervent prayer
Was heard, though she reached but a barren shore,
And died with her darling there.

For the demons of murder and foul disgrace
On her hearthstone dared not light;
But the Angel of Womanhood held the place,
And its site is a holy site.

                       Mary Hannay Foott (1885)

*The incident referred to in the above poem took place a few years ago in one of the small islands off the north coast of Queensland. Mrs. Watson, wife of a bêche de mer fisher, was left, in her husband's absence, with her infant child and two Chinese servants on the island. The homestead was attached by wild blacks from the mainland, one of the servants killed, and the other wounded. Mrs Watson defended her home so effectually with her revolver that the assailants withdrew. Fearing their return she placed some little provision in an iron tank, which had been cut down so that it served as a boat, and embarking in this frail vessel, with her child and the wounded man, she strove to make her way to some place of refuge. The tank was found some time afterwards on the shore of an uninhabited and waterless island, where the remains of the ill-fated voyage were also discovered. Mrs. Watson kept a diary almost up to the last.