The Longest Song Wiki

Composed and written by the famed Stan Rogers, this song was intended as a motivational song and is credited with having saved at least one life.

It has become a folk standard, performed in varying arrangements by numerous artists, and chronicles the sinking of the fictional ship Mary Ellen Carter somewhere in the North Atlantic.

Robbie led the band in singing The Mary Ellen Carter from memory in their September 2019 live stream.

Factoids

In 1983 the coastal cargo vessel Marine Electric capsized off the coast of Virginia. Robert Cusick, a fifty nine year old chief mate aboard the ship was trapped under the deckhouse when the vessel sank, and was forced to spend the night alone neck-deep in water. With waves washing over him and hypothermia setting in, Cusick claims he remembered the concluding stanzas of The Mary Ellen Carter and was able to keep himself awake, and consequently alive, by shouting the lyrics between holding his breath against the waves. This story is told by Cusick himself in the Stan Rogers documentary One Warm Line.

There are a number of candidates for the location Rogers chose for the sinking of the ship, but the two most likely are Three Mile Rock, a small coastal community on the northern peninsula of Newfoundland, or (more likely) Three Mile Rock, a known nautical hazard just off the coast of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

It has been speculated that, based on the details mentioned in the song, the ship would most likely have been a 65' Coastal Fishing Trawler of a type common to the 1970s Canadian North Atlantic. (Conclusion drawn from cost and crew size.) Though Rogers' biography Unfinished Conversation suggests that Mary Ellen Carter was supposed to have been a Freighter.

Lyrics

These lyrics are based on the version performed by the Longest Johns in their livestream. The original lyrics can be found here.

Oh, she went down last October in a pouring driving rain.
The skipper, he'd been drinking and the Mate, he felt no pain.
How close to Three Mile Rock, and she was dealt her mortal blow,
And the Mary Ellen Carter settled low.

There were just us four aboard her when she finally was awash.
We worked like hell to save her, all heedless of the cost.
But the groan she gave as she went down, it caused us to proclaim
{Make Mary Ellen Carter would rise again.}

{Chorus}
Rise again, rise again.
May her name not be lost to the knowledge of men.
All those who loved her best and who were with her 'til the end
Will make the Mary Ellen Carter rise again.

Well, the company wrote her off; not a nickel would they spend.
She gave twenty years of service, boys, then met her sorry end.
But insurance paid the loss to us, said let her rest below.
Then they laughed at us and said we had to go.

But we talked of her all winter, sometimes days around the clock,
She's worth a quarter million, a-floating at the dock.
And with every jar that hit the bar, we swore we would remain
{And watch the Mary Ellen Carter rise again.}

{Chorus}

All summer, we've been with her on a barge lent by a friend.
Three dives a day in hard hat suit and twice I've had the bends.
Thank god it's only sixty feet and the currents here are slow
or I'd never have the stones to go below.

So we've patched her rents, stopped up her vents, dogged hatch and porthole down.
Put cables to her, 'fore and aft, and girded her around.
Tomorrow, noon, we'll hit the air and then take up the strain.
{'Watch the Mary Ellen Carter Rise Again.}

{Chorus}

Well we couldn't leave her there, you see, to crumble into shale.
She'd saved our lives so many times, a-fighting through the gale
And the sorry, drunken rats who led her to a sorry grave
Well they won't be laughing in another day. . .

And you, to whom adversity has dealt the final blow-
{With smiling bastards lying to you everywhere you go}
Turn to, and put out all your strength of arm and heart and brain
{And like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.}

Rise again, rise again - though your heart it be broken
And life about to end
No matter what you've lost, be it a home, a love, a friend.
Like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.