The tide was out, the water low;
the sun had set, twas time to go.
We set our poles about knee deep,
at the entrance of Gray Brook Creek.
To catch a cod, we were hoping for,
as they often followed the tidal bore.
We climbed the bank to the high tide mark,
and to Gray’s Island, we made our start.
Three teenage boys out having fun
with the hope of a catch in the November run.
As the sun, its last glow shed,
we quickened our pace for the long walk ahead.
Up came the fog that follows the tide,
it started to settle, the marsh to hide.
The moon arose like a large orange eye
fading in and out as it rose in the sky.
The fog bank veiled it, though sometimes not,
so we hurried home at a bit of a trot!
Then came a rustle of breeze from the shore,
the sound of waves lapping and creak of boat oars.
We stopped very sudden, this sound shouldn’t be!
We’re too far from the river for the sound of the sea!
Then we could hear coming out from the town,
somebody walking on muck-soddened ground.
We stood there enshroud with the damp river fog
when something in front of us raised up from the bog!
As the moon broke through a hole in the mist,
there coming toward us – a man, sword in fist!
His footsteps were sucking and slopping in mud.
He stood there before us, his face covered in blood!
An army tunic he wore, the brass buttons did shine!
Corporal stripes on his sleeve were all muddy with slime.
His other hand held the hair from his head,
on his left cheek his eye dangled, held on by a thread!
He staggered towards us, arms out in despair!
A cold breeze struck us, and made us aware
of the thump of a boat bumping hard on the shore--
two more soldiers rush at us, behind them several more!
The moon darkened with fog, covered like a veil,
the breeze grew stronger and hit us with hail!
The thunder of cannons boomed in our ears!
Our faces were wet with the hail and our tears.
The light became brighter; the wind died down.
Then, we were standing on solid, bare ground.
No corporal, no soldiers, just three boys all alone,
wishing and praying we were safely at home.
We told our parents of this strangest of sights,
of the soldiers and blood at the beginning of night.
Their reactions were shock, and their faces turned pale
in fear and disbelief of our sordid tale.
Gathering their wits, they spoke at last
of the legend of old, of the ghosts from the past.
Indeed, people before had seen such a sight
on the marshes of Hillsborough in the beginning of night!
(It is said long ago…)
British soldiers were sent with orders to clear
French settlers from the river banks here, far and near.
Those Kings who ruled them from England and France
did not care for their people, just treasury to enhance.
France had traded this land of snow
for an island down south where warm breezes blow.
To the people who lived here, it mattered not.
They farmed, had their churches, and nurtured this spot.
The soldiers had their duty to perform,
not by choice or desire, but by allegiance sworn.
The settler’s decision was a harder choice:
Allegiance to England would cost them their life.
As the French of Quebec had the rule of them here,
their allegiance to France was demanded! Or fear
of death by gunshot was a very real threat!
Excommunication from church was worse even yet.
And so, the two parties met on the bank of this shore-
A choice of fate that will pain evermore.
The battle raged and many men died.
The soldiers became stranded by the river’s low tide!
A wait for the tide, a must for retreat!
Vacate the marshes in total defeat!
On the ride rise of the tide, they made their way
down the Petitcodiac to Shepody Bay.
To the marshes of Shepody is where they fled,
and there in safety, they buried their dead.
This story was told by our grandparents, our parents said,
of the expulsion of old and these ghosts of the dead.
And now, just a word of advice to remember,
beware of the marsh in the month of November!
For many are said to have seen such a sight
as this phantom corporal on a similar night.
If you doubt this tale and dare have a look,
‘tis the month of November, at nightfall, at the mouth of Gray Brook!
John Jones is on the board of directors of the Albert County Historical Society.