New Oxford Item
Nov 3, 1899
STORY OF "OCEAN MARY."
Baby Mascot of the Sea Won the Heart of a Pirate
Touch of Nature that Saved a Ship and Crew- Child Grew to Womanhood and Her
Wedding Gown was Made from the Pirate's Silk Brocade.
In the village burying-ground at Henniker, N.H., may be seen standing among
a dozen slabs of like design, a small slate stone, whose inscription, in common
with the others, in no manner suggests that the story of the one in whose memory
it was set was different from the ordinary affairs of the hillside pioneer.
It is the grave of Ocean Mary. It was years and years ago that the baby
mascot of the sea won a pirate's heart.
Previous to 1720, the year in which the principal events of this narrative
occurred, many families of Scotch peasantry crossed the north channel and found
homes in the larger towns on or near the coast of Ireland. Thus Londonderry
became the residence of a large number of Scotch yeomanry.
In those times of slow ships and many perils of the sea, it was a far cry
from Londonderry in Ireland to Londonderry in the granite state; still Scotland
and the Emerald Isle had already sent sturdy pioneers to the new world on the
Tradition, often the truer part of history, has failed to save from
oblivion the name of the ship which sailed from Londonderry for Boston in July
1720, but she is said to have been in many respects vastly superior to others of
her class in those times. At any rate, long before she dropped anchor off the
picturesque coast, many well-to-do families had prepared for the long voyage. Of
those who from the deck of the departing ship watched the green shores of
Ireland fade from view a large proportion were not only strong of limb, but
thrifty and provident.
Out through Lough Foyle, past Innishowen head and far beyond Giant's
Causeway, with favoring winds, sailed the fated ship.
Among the passengers were James Wilson and his young wife. A year before
Wilson married Elizabeth Fulton and they were now on their way to Londonderry,
N.H. where land had been laid out to James Wilson as one of the grantees of that
In the small valley settlement to which Wilson and his wife were traveling
were friends under whose hands profitable harvests were sure, and a generation
were springing up whose influence was to be felt long years after.
Concerning the earlier part of the voyage of the emigrant ship tradition is
nearly silent although certain fragmentary accounts hint of a protracted calm
and following storm of such violence that the vessel was driven from her course.
However, that may be, it is reasonably certain that the passage was about
one-third accomplished when events transpired that made the voyage memorable in
the lives of all on board.
On sultry evening the lookout saw on the horizon a sail standing like a
gray silhouette against the early-rising moon. All through the hot summer night
the strange craft wore nearer and nearer, and when morning came her low hull
could be seen like a black shadow under her full set of canvas.
The pirate ship was within gunshot of the emigrant ship. To fight or run
away was not to be thought of. The slow ship had not a dozen muskets. They
simply waited. They had not long to wait, for boats were soon alongside, and
swarming upon the deck, the robbers fell to work as men who knew how to plunder
and kill. Crew and passengers were bound and some were left lying where they
were captured, and some rolled into corners, just as suited a momentary freak of
None were killed. Valuables were gathered into parcels convenient to be
transferred to the pirate ship.The robber captain going below to search the
officers' quarters, threw open the after cabin door with a rough hand, but
seeing a woman lying in the berth, stopped.
"Why are you there?" demanded the ruffian.
"See." The terrified woman uncovered a baby's face.
"You have named her."
The pirate went to the cabin door and commanded that no man stir until
further orders. Then, returning, he went close to the berth where the woman lay,
and said gently, "If I may name that baby, that little girl, I will unbind your
men and leave your ship unharmed. May I name the girl?"
Then the rough old robber came nearer still and took up the tiny
unresisting hand of the baby. "Mary" was the name the woman heard him speak.
There were other words, but spoken so low she could not hear. Only his Maker and
his own heart knew, but when the child drew its hand away the mother saw a tear
on the pink fingers.
There have been other knights than Bavard. Here was one.
As good as his word, the pirate captain ordered all captives unbound and
goods and valuables restored to the places from which they had been taken; then
with his crew he left the ship and pulled to his own vessel. But the emigrant
ship had scarcely got under way when a new alarm came to them. The pirate was
If they were dismayed at his reappearance they were surprised to see him
come on board alone and go directly below to the cabin. There he took from a
parcel a piece of brocaded silk of marvelous fineness of texture and beauty of
design. Seen at a little distance the effect of the pattern is as of a plaid
combining in wonderfully harmonized tones, nameless hues of red and green,
softened with lines of what evidently was once white.
Time has, perhaps, somewhat mellowed its color tone, but the richness of its
quality is as the richness of pearls.
"Let Mary wear this on her wedding day," the pirate said, as he laid the
silk on the berth.
The pirate left the ship and was seen no more. In the fulness of time the
emigrant ship reached Boston without further incident. There James Wilson died
soon after landing. Elizabeth Wilson, with Mary, soon after went to live in
Londonderry, where friends were waiting for them. Here the widow married James
Clark, great-great-grandparent of Horace Greeley.
For years the people of the little hamlet religiously kept July 28 in
thanksgiving for the deliverance of their friends from the hands of pirates.
Some time early in the year 1732 Thomas Wallace emigrated to America and
settled in Londonderry, where, on Dec. 18 of the same year, he was married to
Ocean Mary by the Rev. Mr. Davidson of that town. Her wedding gown was the
A granddaughter and a great-granddaughter have also worn the same dress on
Four sons were born to Mary Wallace, three of whom removed to Henniker.
There, on a sightly hill, Robert built the house which in his day was far and
away the grandest mansion in all the country around. He was a man of large
hospitality and intelligent strength of character.
Here Ocean Mary lived many years, and died in 1814 at the age of 94. Her
grave is in the Centre burying ground, about half way down the middle walk, a
bowshot distant from the railroad station. The curious visitor may if he choose
read the inscription on the slate:
"In memory of Widow Mary Wallace, who died Feb. 13, A.D., 1814, in the
ninety-fourth year of her age."
The likeness tradition has left of Ocean Mary is that of a woman
symetrically tall, with light hair, blue eyes and florid complexion, together
with a touch of the aristocracy of nature and a fine repose of manner in her
energetic, determined and kindly ways.
The house is four miles from Henniker village and about the same distance
from Hillsboro. The visitor, if he has an eye for the picturesque, though he
regret the decay that has overtaken the old manse, can but be charmed by the
beauty of the landscape in the midst of which it is set. --Boston Journal.
Cathy Joynt Labath
Ireland Old News