Springhill Mine Explosion

A recording of this song can be heard here and also on youtube:

Folklorist Neil Rosenberg corresponded with both Jack Kingston and Roy Rudolph, who both wrote songs about Springhill mining disasters. Rudolph suspected that Kingston was commissioned to write a song about the 1956 Springhill disaster by a competing company after his own song, “Miracle at Springhill,” was sent to Toronto by Rodeo to be pressed. Rosenberg suggests that Kingston was an obvious choice for such a commission since he had had a national hit with an event song about Marilyn Bell’s swim across Lake Ontario two years prior.

According to Kingston, who claimed to know nothing about Rudolph’s song when he wrote his own, he had performed at Springhill only a month prior to the explosion while touring nationally with Wilf Carter. He remembered being treated hospitably by local residents and therefore followed the news reports avidly. He went to the radio station where he worked and gathered all the news reports of the disaster. The explosion occurred on a Thursday and by the following Tuesday, he had completed a song. He called Quality Records and recorded it that night. It was released that Friday. Kingston performed it on the Main Street Jamboree radio show that Saturday as well as at a Toronto concert for 1,200 on Sunday. Apparently, the song was never widely distributed in the Maritimes but was popular in western Canada.

Citation: Rosenberg, Neil V. 2000. The Springhill Mine Disaster Songs: Class, Memory, and Persistence in Canadian Folksong. In Northeast Folklore: Essays in Honor of D. Ives, ed. Pauleena MacDougall and David Taylor, 153-87. Orono, ME: University of Maine Press & Maine Folklife Center.

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Lyrics

It was Thursday the first of November, 1956 was the year
From Springhill, Nova Scotia, the sad news we did hear
An explosion there did happen, at the entrance to the mine
To save the lives of those within, it was a race with time

Well over a hundred miners were trapped in Colliery four
And hope of their survival grew dimmer by the hour
Wives and families huddled ’round the pithead in the cold
The tears they shed, the prayers they said, can never be retold

For hours and hours they worked away, to reach them it was slow
Brave Draeger men were lost in vain to save the ones below
Hope grew fainter for their lives when Friday it was gone,
But Saturday brought new hope and joy, a few hours after dawn

The clouds that covered up the sky let through the sun to shine
They knew the Lord had heard their prayers, the first man walked from the mine
It soon was learned that more below were surely still alive
And hope grew strong as time went on that all trapped men would survive

Thank God so many did escape from the poisonous gas-filled mine
Thanks to the Draeger men who helped reach most of the men in time
We pray to God to comfort those who lost their loved ones dear
When the Springhill mine explosion brought sorrow, death and fear


10 Responses to “Springhill Mine Explosion”

  1. peterjanzen@sasktel.net
    i sang this song many times in the 50′s it was not recorded exactly as written here..

    2

  2. Heather Sparling says:

    Thanks for your comment, Peter. I’ve had difficulty getting a recording of this song, but I think I have one coming now. Where did you get yours? Please feel free to suggest corrections!

  3. peter janzen says:

    I am not good at typeing, i got the song from my com.I do not believe that it is origional,it is many years ago.where are you getting yours from? and is it origional?

  4. Heather Sparling says:

    I got the lyrics for this song from the article by folklorist Neil V. Rosenberg, cited above. He corresponded directly with Jack Kingston and has a copy of his recording. So I assume that these are the original and correct lyrics. However, it’s possible that the article got the lyrics wrong. I hope to have a copy of the recording soon and can double-check them then.

  5. peter janzen says:

    I like original songs,but i have found many times that some songs were not recorded as they were written i prefer the recorded version.,let me know when you get the original version,is there any other old country songs you would like to talk about?

  6. peter janzen says:

    I believe there were 2 springhill songs .,thefirst

    was springhill mine explosion in 1956..there was another
    springhill mine disaster ,i believe in 1958
    I believe it was called springhill mine disaster.correct me if i am wrong…thank you..

  7. Heather Sparling says:

    There are lots of other Springhill songs, both about the 1956 and about the 1958 disasters (there are also a couple of songs about the 1891 Springhill disaster). Check out “Related Songs” in the right-hand side of this page for more songs about the 1956 disaster. You can see a full list of mining disasters and all the songs associated with each if you go to the “Home” page and then choose “Mining Disasters.”

  8. Mike Benwell says:

    I also sang this song years ago brings back memories

  9. Grandpa Pike says:

    Go to Youtube and search ‘Springhill Mine Explosion’ or ‘Jack Johnson’ and you will hear the original version. I knew the lyric by heart when the song came out shortly after the disaster. The lyric here is correct.They played it a lot on the radio where I lived–Digby Nova Scotia–at the time.

  10. Heather Sparling says:

    Thank you, Grandpa Pike, for letting me know that this song is available on youtube. I’d searched for it before but didn’t find it because I looked for “Springhill” but it’s listed as “Spring Hill.” Thanks to you, I persisted in looking for it and now it’s available at the top of the page.

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