Stratton Mountain Tragedy

Cover image ‘Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening’ by Follow The Raven 


I’ve been thinking about including this song somewhere on the blog for quite a while. It’s based on a poem written by Seba Smith in 1843 and collected by Helen Hartness Flanders in the 1930’s. I came to know it when I discovered the writing and music of Robin McArthur and I never fail to be touched by the words. It seems to me to be a fitting piece to include here on the brink of Christmas as a tale of love and loss and ultimately survival in Wintertime.

It’s a true story about a woman called Lucy Blake and her daughter Rebecca who got lost on Stratton Mountain in Vermont during a snowstorm in 1821. Writer and musician Robin McArthur is also a native of Vermont and she and her husband Tyler Gibbons form the band ‘Red Heart the Ticker.’ They have recorded ‘Stratton Mountain Tragedy’ in their album ‘Your name in Secret I would Write’. In an article in the arts website ‘Gwarlingo‘, Robin tells how she sang this song at the Marlboro historical society and how people there contributed their knowledge of the story. One woman said that every Spring she visits the cemetery where Lucy Blake is buried and noticed there was a red rose on her grave. She later found out that Lucy Blake’s ancestor still lives in town and puts a rose on the grave every Mothers day. Extraordinary how history can be brought to life and made real again through story and song – words and music connecting people through time and across generations.

These are the words.



Stratton Mountain Tradgedy


Cold was the mountain’s height

Drear was the pasture wild

As through the darkness of the night

A mother wandered with her child

As through the drifting snow she pressed

The babe was sleeping ‘neath her breast.


Bitter blew the chilly winds

Darker hours of night came on

Deeper grew the drifting snow

Her limbs were chilled, her strength was gone

‘Oh God,’ she cried in accents wild

‘If I must perish, save my child’


She took the mantle from her breast

Bared her bosom to the storm

As round the babe she wrapped the vest

She smiled to think that it was warm

One cold kiss, one tear she shed

And sank into that snowy bed


A stranger passing by next day

Spied her ‘neath the snowy veil

The frost of death was in her eye

Her cheek was hard and cold and pale

He took the robe from off the child

The babe looked up and sweetly smiled.


Seba Smith ( 1792 – 1868 )



Click on this link below to hear the song.



Stratton Mountain Tragedy’ by Red Heart The Ticker



I wish you all a happy and a peaceful Christmas and I’ll be back to you again sometime in January.



I came to the West of Ireland when I was in my twenties so I am not from this place.

I’ve been thinking about this recently, how Connemara has become my adopted home and how privileged I am to be able to live and work here. I’ve also been thinking about my grandfather who was a farmer in Leixlip, County Kildare where I grew up. He made his living from the land but in a different kind of Ireland, one of struggle and deprivation the like of which I have never known. His working days would have been long and hard, tending his few cattle and working the soil as best as he could. I’m sure that he often felt anxious about meeting the needs of his large family and it was a terrible shock for them all when he passed suddenly at just 46 years of age. I hope that while he was alive and in spite of the hardship, he was able to draw strength from the land and from his honest work in the clear fresh air with nature as his companion. The perspectives are so different – different generations, different eras on opposite sides of the country. For all of this, I like to imagine that perhaps we have shared an appreciation and a gratitude for the same things.

This brings me to Robin MacArthur, a writer and musician that I’ve had the pleasure of discovering recently. Robin is from the New England area of the northeastern United States and she lives and works in a place that was inhabited by her ancestors in Marlboro, Vermont. I am intrigued by the sense of belonging that this must bring. There is something very powerful about such a long thread of attachment through time and family and Robin’s consciousness of this is immediately apparent in her creative work. I discovered an essay by Robin called ‘Abandoned Landscapes‘ in which she explores and celebrates the use of landscape in fiction and makes a plea for it’s return. I immediately connected with the sentiment – this little excerpt summarises the piece well;



‘Big sky, memory, erasure, allegory, history, decay, and metaphor; all acknowledge that we as human beings are still connected and a part of the physical world around us. Landscape, in its myriad forms, takes us literally “outide” of the self. And this escape from the self is, for me, at the heart of what I yearn for in life and in fiction.’


taken from  Abandoned Landscapes by Robin MacArthur



I went on to discover that Robin is also a blogger ( woodbird, them mornings ) and a talented musician and band member with her husband Tyler Gibbons ( Red Heart the Ticker ). Her sense of belonging and reverence towards the land and it’s gifts is woven delicately but firmly through her writing and her music which I encourage you to discover for yourself.

Here is Robin’s “Love letter to Vermont,” which aired on NPR’s State of the Re:Union. It is accompanied by photographs taken by Sara Brooke Curtis and the music is by Red Heart the Ticker. It is a love letter and a thank you letter and a prayer all at once and it is written and spoken from the heart.




 Cover image taken from woodbird, them mornings