Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Old Quawk's Day

About 200 years ago there lived on Ocracoke Island a fisherman of indeterminate provenance. He was a reclusive figure, preferring to live in a small hut made of driftwood and bullrushes about 5-6 miles from the village. No one remembers his given name, but folks called him "Old Quawk" because, they said, he "quawked" like an old night heron.

Old Quawk was a fisherman, often venturing out into Pamlico Sound in his sail skiff when cautious islanders stayed in port waiting for more propitious weather.

On this date, March 16, many years past, Old Quawk made his last voyage into Pamlico Sound. Storm clouds were piling up in the darkening sky. Legend has it that Old Quawk defiantly disregarded the warnings of other islanders, raised his clenched fist to the heavens and dared the gods to thwart him, then set out in his sail skiff. A frightful gale churned the Sound into a wild turbulence and swamped Old Quawk's tiny craft. Neither Old Quawk nor his boat were ever found.

"Old Quawk" in July 4th Parade

For many years Ocracoke fishermen refused to go out in their boats on March 16. Even today it's best to be prudent on Old Quawk's Day. There's no telling what the weather gods will dish out on March 16. 

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Beatrice Wells, child evangelist, who preached at Ocracoke in the late 1930s/early 1940s. You can read it here:


  1. And on this day started my tradition... but more recently than 200 years. :-) Here's my contribution to this fateful day. From my book ( )

    Old Quawk’s Day - by me (Robert Foster)

    March, the ides, of Winter's end
    A sorrowed tale will oft portend
    That Caesar is just one to fall
    The season, late, had one more squall

    We stood in awe of dark'ning skies
    The winter, still, had one reprise
    The song she sang that day Cimmerian
    For we, the children, here Silurian

    We bade the day considered lost
    For no man, wise, would pay the cost
    To fish amongst a roiling sound
    To cast that day, our ending, drowned

    But on that day one stood too proud
    Cursing God and Mother loud
    He left this isle and safety’s sight
    To save his nets despite this plight

    Unto his own he stayed up north
    So rarely would he venture forth
    He left us here to pine upon
    Why here, these shores, he wandered on?

    Bolder he than all of us
    Above the gale we heard him cuss
    Raucous wails, the tempest spoke
    Though, not above this fiery bloke!

    Some say a pirate, some shipwrecked
    This moorish hermit, we suspect
    These tales as told will have no end
    The squawking recluse failed to bend

    For on that fateful mid-March Day
    We watched the cullion sail away
    No trace of him was ever found
    No blighted skiff adrift, the sound

    Beware the Ides of March, my friend
    And if you doubt, I’ll swear again
    Pay heed, old Quawk, we never found
    This day, the wise, stay island bound

    1. Great poem, Robb. Thanks again for sharing.

  2. :-D I went to "do" with a group of poets last night who are now fully aware of Old Mr. Quawk and his misfortune.