Rise Again!

Rise Again!

From Chicken Soup for the Canadian Soul

Rise Again!

. . . T here’s one of the finest voices to ever express what Canada is. Stan Rogers. May we never forget him.

Her Excellency, The Right Honourable
Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada

Although my husband, Stan Rogers, died suddenly and tragically back in 1983, his music lives on in the hearts of Canadians. When people who have never heard Stan’s music before hear it for the first time, they never forget it. It just somehow gets under their skin, and they recognize it instantly as something uniquely Canadian. They realize Stan is talking about them, and it makes him very special to them.

Although Stan was born and raised in Ontario, his family ties and his cultural roots were in the Canso area of Nova Scotia’s Chetabucto shore. He travelled all over Canada and the United States, and he loved the excitement of playing gigs with other musicians, meeting different people, listening to their stories and always creating a great deal of emotion with his music. Wherever he sang, he connected with the people. But he always loved to go back to Nova Scotia and to the sea.

Often, Stan and his band members would end a concert with a rousing rendition of “The Mary Ellen Carter.” This is a song about a group of fishermen, possibly Nova Scotian, who get caught in a violent October storm. Despite their desperate attempts to save the ship they love, which served them well, they are devastated when she goes down, due to the negligence of the captain. They hope she can be salvaged, but the owners are not interested. The men, therefore, vow to raise her themselves. Despite the difficulties they have to face, they are determined to make the Mary Ellen Carter rise again. In the last verse and final chorus of the song, the power of the human spirit to triumph over adversity is proclaimed with such great passion, everyone gets involved. With the crowd singing along, and Stan belting it out with everything he had, it was always one of his most popular songs.

One dark and stormy night, that song literally became a lifesaver. After a concert one evening, a man who had gone down with his ship—but who was ultimately saved— came up to Stan.

“Stan Rogers, I’m alive and here today because of you and your song, ‘The Mary Ellen Carter.’ I was on an old ship,” he continued, “and we were carrying a load of coal when we got caught in a very bad storm. We didn’t have very much warning. At about two o’clock in the morning, the ship was starting to get in trouble, then at about 4:15 in the morning, she cracked up and rolled over. I didn’t want to be sucked down by the vortex when the ship sank, so I started swimming away as fast as I could. After about an hour, I ran across a swamped lifeboat, and I managed to get in. It was very cold, and as the night wore on, and the sea kept smashing down on top of me, I finally got to feeling I just couldn’t take it any more. I was just about ready to give up, when all of a sudden, the words of your song came into my mind: ‘Rise again! Rise again! No matter what you’ve lost, be it a home, a love, a friend, like the Mary Ellen Carter—rise again!’

“And I kept saying it over and over, and then the water would clear away, and then I’d shout it out, and then I’d sing it out, and then another wave would crash down on top of me. Stan, I firmly believe that if it weren’t for me remembering those words, I had just reached the point where I couldn’t have survived. There’s no question in my mind that your song was the reason I lived through that night.”

“. . . And you, to whom adversity has dealt the final blow,

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!”

When we lost Stan, those of us who knew him and loved him faced our own dark night on the water. To think that such a vibrant spirit and voice could just be wiped out in seconds was almost too much to bear. But Stan’s spirit lives on in his music, and like that sailor who saved his own life by hanging on to the song inside himself, we were able to find strength in the memory of who Stan was and in his inspiring words of determination and hope. Stan’s own words helped us find the courage to go on— “And like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again!”

Ariel Rogers
Dundas, Ontario

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