Bob Dylan: Stuck In Halifax With The Tombstone Blues Again

By Larry Fyffe

Writes Les Fyffe in reference to Bob Dylan’s song entitled “Tempest” – a song about the sinking of the Titanic:

“I’ve heard a rumour that Dylan’s lyrics originally included the verse below but the song was already too long so he decided to leave it out. Never been substantiated though –

"And 149 lost souls whose names have long been forgotten
Were taken by fishing boats to Halifax pier
And laid beneath the snowflaked stones of McGrattan
Never to be held again by those who loved them dear"

MaGrattan operates a granite works in New Brunswick in the days of yore. There’s a bit of leg-pulling on the part of my identical twin brother, but the retired geologist co-authors a published article in the “Atlantic Geology” journal entitled:

“Investigation of Sheriff Stuart’s Black Granite Quarries In Charotte County, Southwestern New Brunswick, Canada: Implications For The Source Of The Titanic Headstones In Halifax, Nova Scotia”

(by Leslie R. Fyffe and William W. Gardiner).

In short the article  concludes that the black granite with the snowflake pattern, like that from coal trimmer J(oseph) Dawson’s headstone in a Halifax graveyard, strongly supports the contention that the granite comes from a particular quarry in Charlotte County NB, and not from the High Sheriff’s nearby. A photo of the Halifax headstone is included with the article.

That grave marker becomes famous because James Cameron in the movie “Titanic”, supposedly by coincidence, has actor Leonardo DiCaprio play an artist named Jack Dawson. In 3rd Class on board the Titanic, Dawson ends up sacrificing himself to save the lovely Rose whose mother wants her to marry wealthy passenger Cal whom Rose does not like.  Reminds one of Rosemary, the Jack Of Hearts, and Big Diamond Jim in Bob Dylan’s narrative song ‘Lily, Rosemary, And The Jack Of Hearts”.

Dylan writes the song entitled ‘Tempest’ about the sinking of the world’s ‘biggest metaphor’ based on the old Carter Family song, “The Titanic”:

The watchman was a-dreaming
Yes, dreaming a sad, sad dream
He dreamed the Titanic was sinking
Out on the deep blue sea

(Carter Family: The Titanic ~ Maybelle/Sara/A.P. Carter)

In Bob Dylan’s lyrics, Leonardo Dicaprio gets a nod from the singer/songwriter – apparently, not even Dylan can make ‘Rose’ (played by Kate Winslet) rhyme with ‘Leo’:

Leo said to Cleo
"I think I'm going mad"
But he lost his mind already
Whatever mind he had

(Bob Dylan: Tempest)

Quote from the movie:

Rose: "You're crazy"
Jack: "That's what everybody says...."

Unlike jealous and nasty Big Jim in Dylan’s  “Lily, Rosemary, And The Jack Of Hearts”, and the likewise Caledon in Cameron’s movie, a man of means gets depicted as a hero in the verse below:

Jim Dandy smiled
He never learned to swim
Saw the little crippled child
And he gave his seat to him

(Bob Dylan:Tempest)

Cameron gives Bob Dylan a nod as well:

Dawson (playing cards): "When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose":

From the following song lyrics:

When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You're invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal
(Bob Dylan: Like A Rolling Stone)

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