The Mighty Montagu

Having been asked many times if I'd got a song abut Lundy I considered writing about the Montagu but felt I already had far too many shipwreck stories for comfort!

But I did think a light-hearted song might be a possibility because there was no loss of life, and massive incompetance by both Captain and the salvaging authorities. Then I discovered - to my delight - that the skipper was one Captain Thomas Adair, a relation of my cousin Commadore Allan Adair (Commander British Forces, Gibralter - who's managed, so far, not to do the same thing with his own commands; HMS Excellent, HMS Brazon HMS Brilliant).

Both Adairs are descendents of the legendry Captain Charles Adair who died at Nelson's feet at Trafalgar prompting Nelson's last words before being hit; “There goes poor Adair, I may be next to follow him.”

I spent a happy time on Lundy when another cousin, John Christmas, worked there as a Cowman/Boatman in the early 80s, and I'm indebted to Henry Clements (who wrote Needle and Thread) for the loan of his own song about the Montagu, which helped me greatly in my research. TB


Well we sailed aboard the Montagu one merry morn in May

The finest ship afloat (the most expensive, anyway)

With shiny guns and gadgets, she’d cost a million pound

Which was why it was so tragic when he ran the thing aground


And though I dare say Adair is a decent sort of chap

He struggled to check his rekoning, never troubled to study the map

In the middle of his twiddling and a-fiddling with his dial

The mighty Montagu met the middle o Lundy Isle


We were working with the wireless - the skipper’s latest toy

Calling all the way to Cornwall, Montagu Ahoy!

When suddenly there’s a juddering and a shuddering and a shock

Well bugger me he’s shunted her upon the Shutter Rock


Well the water fills the wireless room so that’s no bloody use

The skipper tells me lower a boat and take a little cruise

‘The Hartland light is but a mile along this Devon shore

Tell ‘em send a man to ride and send a ship to pull us clear’


I said ‘We need a healthy horse to summon the alarm

How far is it from Hartland to the nearest decent farm?’

The keeper shrugged his shoulders and he smiled a little smile

‘Before you find a farm you’ll have to swim for twenty mile’


Well the salvage of the Montagu became a national joke

Even barges from Bermuda couldn’t make the bugger float

Though they spent another fortune, it was all to no avail

So Adair goes to Court Martial - presumably to gaol.


They called him to the Victory, to shear him of his pips

Said you simply can’t be trusted not to scupper any more ships

So we’re promoting you to Admiral, to protect us from your flaws

Now he’s in the House of Commons where he’s making up the laws!