Poor Lydia Gow

Poor Lydia Gow

3tdoan's picture



18 Poor Lydia Gow - 50/90 2019

Liner Notes: 

This is based on a true story I came across in the news. Poor Lydia Gow was indeed a lighthouse keeper's daughter who had to be buried in a bathtub as there was nowhere fit for burial on the island. They ended up moving her to the mainland where she was buried eventually, still in the bathtub.


Looked into it a bit, and there's even more to the story. Her father was actually a ship's engineer and was lost at sea in a lifeboat for several weeks, given up for dead. He made it home and changed careers to lighthouse keeper which he thought would be a safer one. Alas, Lydia's wasn't the only tragedy in their family. Another two children were also struck down by illness. Their youngest lived until the 1980s so all this is in living memory.

The song would've been more appropriately recorded in yesterday's window-rattling winds, but I wasn't done yet and it's calmed down now :P


On a rocky isle off the northern coast
There stood a friendly light in violent seas
On South Solitary lived the keeper and his wife
Just a simple man and his family
In November nineteen-hundred and twelve
There came a cruel and savage squall
And they thought the cyclone itself was hell
Not knowing even worse was in store

Poor Lydia Gow
The lighthouse keeper’s daughter
Poor Lydia Gow
Just seventeen years young
So many songs unsung
Poor Lydia Gow

Lydia their eldest girl lay in bed
Sweltering and shivering, she sighed
The wind shaking walls like the typhoid shook her bones
As her mother knelt, praying to the sky
The doctor and the nurse at once set sail
But the wild waves blocked their path
Their ship was tossed and turned in the gale
As the cyclone screamed and roared and laughed


In her fever dream she felt the arms
Of a lover she would never get to meet
On distant shores of her fading mind
She heard her father trying not to weep
On three howling days and three wretched nights
Her brothers and her sisters stood in wait
On the fourth day they had the ship in sight
But for Lydia it came too late


On this barren crag off the northern coast
The land was far too rocky for a grave
No topsoil where they could bury her
So in a bathtub of concrete she was laid
They say her lonely ghost lingers there
In the solitary lighthouse where she passed
Bemoaning her fate in restless despair
Trapped forever in a bath


Please keep your comments respectful, honest, and constructive. Please focus on the song and not the demo.


Aging Ophelia's picture

That is a sad and fascinating story, at least you've made it jump from the page; maybe because of the clever and natural way you've animated everything, from the waves to the tub. Wonderful ballad!

billwhite51's picture

excellent writing of a unique story. a lively addition to the maritime songbook. you sing the chorus with such empathetic passion, and your storytelling in the verses is all the more vivid becaise of the detail you put into the place and circumstances. also, there are few things as valuable than telling a story that has not been told,

tcelliott's picture

There's a great rhythm to the verse lyric that really delves into the lyric gives a little edge to the story that suits it well and that I like very much. When you hit that high note at the start of the chorus it just feels the way it is suppose to. I really like the chorus melody/phrasing.. well the melody as a whole. This is a very good story song. You've done it up very well.

I'm singing along with the chorus every time it comes around. I can't help it.

jcollins's picture

First, I read the entire article. I actually created a lighthouse ghost character and used her in a series of songs as a theme. This is the first time I've ever heard a real story about a lighthouse ghost. Nice! Well, I mean that you found this story. It's a tragedy for sure. I read the rest of you liner notes and find the entire story interesting. Reports of her picture falling off the wall and doors unlocking and locking...very strange. Also, her father lost at sea is certainly more than what the article mentioned. You did your research...good for you.

Looking at the lyrics...the first section sets this up nicely and very well written. The chorus is great and especially special as this is a true story. The next section continues to unfold the story with great details. Chorus again now. The next section gives even more details about the attempted rescue...again, very well written. The last section tells of her burial in a bathtub and the legend of her ghost. Excellent work and the best lyrics I've read today. Quite interesting indeed. I'm ready for the audio now...hold. uke I think...vocals now...sound folk I think..can clearly understand the lyrics...chorus now...poor lydia gow...just 17 years young...poor lyridia gow....lyrics move quiclky and accurately...sounds really good. Chorus again now...sounds great...just 17 years young...lover she'd never get to meet...howling days....brothers and sisters....ship in site...too late...chorus again...sounds really good...so many songs unsung (not anymore). Bathtub....poor Lydia gow....the lighthouse keepers daughter....poor Lydia gow. Excellent song and performance. I've heard a bunch of songs today and this is the best song that I've read and heard, period. Great job on this.

coolparadiso's picture

Good one this. Real story. Good choice of instrument. Great chorus. The folk crowd would eat this up!

Kristi's picture

Really fine storytelling in this. You paint the scene and give life to this story. I can see the mother here: "The wind shaking walls like the typhoid shook her bones/As her mother knelt, praying to the sky." And the chorus is touching...."So many songs unsung". Well played and performed!

katpiercemusic's picture

Wow! This is like a cross between Erlkonig and Lady of Shalott. I love murder ballads and death ballads of all sorts. This one is excellently told and the music is absolutely perfect. There's an urgent energy in the strumming and I love that little dissonance that you throw in there.

katpiercemusic's picture

Wow! This is like a cross between Erlkonig and Lady of Shalott. I love murder ballads and death ballads of all sorts. This one is excellently told and the music is absolutely perfect. There's an urgent energy in the strumming and I love that little dissonance that you throw in there.