Pictou County Mining Disaster

I was absolutely thrilled that, in response to an earlier message indicating that we had no information about this song, the composer, Al Hanis, wrote directly to me! I really enjoyed an interview with him by phone. I will post more information about this song and Al Hanis in due course.

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Lyrics

What is in a man that would coax him to go
Into the ground, say, a mile or so
Down in the bowels of a dark, damp coal mine?
Some folks would say that they’re out of their minds.
And while they come from all over this land
There’s one sure thing that they all understand
A job is a job and a man is a man
Now someone is depending on them.

Nova Scotia is home to the Old Foord Seam
They’ve mined her for well over a century
She’s twisted and rotted and deadly they say
Many a miner’s poor life she has claimed
Well not much has changed over the years
Roof falls and methane, coal dust are still feared
In a mechanized mine with all safety gear
Yet somehow the Reaper appeared.

It was a cold Friday night on the graveyard shift
The men had gone down where the dust was adrift
Though fortune was theirs to be on the payroll
They were given no warning of what would unfold
Did they hear it explode? Did they see the flash?
Did they suffer long before they breathed their last?
An act of God or was it methane gas?
But something ignited the blast.

In the Plymouth Fire Hall families gathered inside
They prayed the coal miners would still be alive
Reporters and cameras lined up on the street
To share with the nation their moment of grief
The rescue teams waded on down through the doom
To save the poor souls from a dark, dusty tomb
And we prayed to God from our living rooms
That some way they’d all be exhumed.

The company brass were left to explain
How could this happen and who is to blame
But they weren’t aware of any wrongdoing
The lives of the families were shattered in ruin
The politicians have covered their seats
And twenty-six coalminers, they all took the heat
Well who is responsible, who’s going to pay?
Sometime there’ll be judgment day.

To a church in New Glasgow the town’s folk were led
Where a choir sang out to honour the dead
Then the ode is spoken from the pulpit floor
“Carry them to heaven,” they prayed to the Lord
So a coalminer’s work it seems is never done
And each new generation has coal in its blood
He’s the best of all friends with each foot that is dug
And somewhere there’s a lady he loves.

What is in a man that would coax him to go
Into the ground, say, a mile or so
Down in the bowels of a dark, damp coal mine?
Some folks would say that they’re out of their minds.
And while they come from all over this land
There’s one sure thing that they all understand
A job is a job and a man is a man
Now some child is without a dad.
Now some child is without a dad.

c1992 by Al Hanis (SOCAN). Used with permission.


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