When the Witch of November Comes Early

It’s hard to believe that it has been forty years since the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, a fact still memorable to so many, I’m sure, only because of Gordon Lightfoot’s beautifully haunting ballad about it.

Maybe it’s because I have always been so close to the water, both physically and spiritually – I am from a state with a name that translates into English as “providential river;” I am from a Lake Erie coastal town with a name that translates into English as “the river of many fish;” my elementary school mascot was a dolphin; my junior high school mascot was a raider; my high school mascot was a mariner; my college mascot was a terrapin; and I worked at a marina before joining the navy and becoming a sailor for life – that this tragedy, and especially this song about it, has meant, and always will mean, so much to me.


I know I’m getting old but I cannot help thinking how much of a simpler, more thoughtful time it was back then (the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon not withstanding)…

But can you imagine, in this all-things-perishable day and age, someone penning such a well-received, enduringly beautiful song for the El Faro, the cargo ship that just sunk during Hurricane Joaquin?

Yeah… me neither.


19 Replies to “When the Witch of November Comes Early”

  1. Thank you for mentioning the anniversary of the tragic loss of everyone aboard the Edmund Fitzgerald. I live in Michigan and we have had too many wrecks of those very important ships over the decades. Gordon Lightfoot’s beautiful song is one way that we can all remember and honor all of the lives lost over the years when the gales of November blow rough and strong and early. I live in Bay City and I have a wonderful Saginaw River view. I so love watching those big ships sail up and down the River and then go out through the Saginaw Bay and out into the other Great Lakes. The crews lead tough lives working those big ships. Thank you for your wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I lived in MI for over 20 years and actually visited the Shipwreck Museum in the UP off the shore of Lake Superior. It’s a haunting tribute to the many lives that were lost in view of the lighthouse. I was in that lighthouse. After the visit I resolved that the attention of the Edmund Fitzgerald is a tribute to the lives lost on that and all the other ships which all we lost in similar ways. The witch of November claiming her dead, I suppose.

    I agree that such a tribute and memorium would not happen today. Sad.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. We visited Whitefish Point this past June and saw the lighthouse and the Shipwreck Museum just 15 miles from where the Fitzgerald went down. The Fitzgerald sank during my senior year in high school. It was a big deal back then because of the human losses – the people, the families and friends. It is a shame the culture now is so insulated from the value of life.

    Liked by 2 people


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