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©2019 WILD HARBORS. PHOTOS BY LINDSEY PLEVYAK.

THE BALLAD OF WALLACE AND JESSIE

12.11.2018

This story happened over a century ago.

 

As Chris was browsing through library shelves one day, he happened upon a book about the Titanic. He paged through photographs and specs about the ship and its passengers until one story made him pause. This is the story that birthed our song.

 

A young girl named Jessie lay sick in a Salvation Army orphanage in the lowland village of Kirkcudbright, Scotland. On the night of April 14, 1912, staff called for Captain W. Rex Snowden, saying that the child was dying. He went to her bedside, and she sat up, asking if he could see a large ship sinking in the water. Thinking she was dreaming, he tried to soothe her back to sleep. But she insisted, saying that people were drowning, and a man named Wally was playing the fiddle. She eventually slipped into a coma and passed away in the night.

 

The next day, word reached Scotland that indeed, a large ship had sunk that night - the HMS Titanic. On that ship was Wally Hartley, the voyage's violinist and bandleader, who led the band in music after the fateful iceberg collision. Wallace had been a boyhood friend of Captain Snowden, which Jessie had no way of knowing before that moment. CRAZY.

 

The story's mention of Wallace caused us to think about those final hours. History tells that the band began to play as people headed for the far-too-few lifeboats - the calming music helped to stave off pandemonium. The sacrifice Wallace and his fellow players made is sobering. Instead of fighting for lifeboat space for themselves, they laid down their lives to allow others to live. It's such an unexpected way to use the gift of music. Faced with such calamity, I am sure many would think, "What could I possibly offer or do?!" Yet these men found a way to use what they had to save the lives of others.

 

The early 1900s were a time that had some similar sentiments to today. The older generation was generally jaded about and disappointed in the younger, feeling they had little character or merit. There had not been a war or great testing of moral fiber in quite a while. The senior generation thought the younger was entitled and spoiled. (Sound a bit familiar? "Millennial" talk ring a bell?) Then, enter the sinking of the Titanic. As survivors were interviewed, many stories like Wallace's began to surface - people who sacrificed themselves for women and children to live. People who pitched in afterward to comfort and help the survivors. In the face of great tragedy, humanity showed itself compassionate, loyal, fierce, and worthy. 

 

The story of Wallace and Jessie left a mark on us, and we hope it sticks in your memory, too. The thing is, we ALL have gifts and talents. Yours might be music, or it might be something completely different. But we are confident that there will be unexpected opportunities for you to step forward and offer your gift in service. Do not fall for the lie that it's irrelevant, unhelpful, less than. There are ways beyond the obvious to use what we've been given to bless, and even to save, those around us.

 

THE BALLAD OF WALLACE AND JESSIE

 

A ship on the ocean was miles from the shore

They heard a great crash like an out of tune chord

The crew exchanged glances beneath the big April moon

The ship was going down and there was nothing they could do

The ship was going down and there was nothing they could do

 

Before any panic had a chance to set in

A man raised his bow and his old violin 

He summoned up his courage

He summoned up the band

To hold fast ‘til the end like a soldier’s last stand

To hold fast ‘til the end like a soldier’s last stand

 

People rushed on by, still the band stood their ground   

And let loose in the air a most beautiful sound

A song to raise your spirits    

and keep away your fear   

A song that you could walk upon the water when you hear

A song that you could walk upon the water when you hear

 

The symphony it swelled and none there could forget

How the melody was bound to their sorrow and regret

He poured himself out across cold, northern black

And he gave them a gift they could not give him back

He gave them a gift they could not give him back

 

In an orphanage in Scotland, beneath the same moon

Jessie woke from a dream of a ship and her crew

She cried, "Can't you hear it? The song on the waves?"

And with one final breath, Jessie drifted away

 

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