“Twenty-Five Miners”: What is it about?

One of the songs on this website is “Twenty-Five Miners.” The Sharecroppers of Newfoundland set a poem by Father Ron MacIntyre to music. You can hear it on youtube:

The song’s structure was inspired by Gordon Lightfoot’s “Canadian Railroad Trilogy.”

I initially thought that this song was about Westray, but that the songwriter had made an error in referring to twenty-five miners (instead of the twenty-six who were actually killed at Westray). This song makes it clear that the disaster was an explosion, as happened at Westray. However, information at the Sharecroppers’ website indicates that this song is actually about a disaster in Dominion, Cape Breton.

However, after consulting colleagues familiar with Cape Breton’s mining history, and after consulting the Nova Scotia Archives’ list of mine fatalities, I could not identify a mining explosion in Dominion (which is near both New Waterford and Glace Bay, mining communities not too far from Sydney) that had killed twenty-five miners. The lyrics, unlike many disaster songs, do not provide much identifying information. Although the lyrics mention the number of miners killed and the cause of the disaster (an explosion), there are no other details, such as the date of the disaster, the location, or even the name of a miner.

Colleagues have suggested that perhaps the song wasn’t about a disaster that happened in Dominion, Cape Breton, but rather happened in a Dominion coal mine. The Dominion Steel and Coal Company (DOSCO) was a coal mining and steel manufacturing company operating in Cape Breton until it was dissolved in 1968. It was preceded by several other companies for which “Dominion” was part of the name.

I haven’t yet tried to get in touch with the Sharecroppers… I’ll get to that eventually! In the meantime, if anyone has more information about this song, I hope you’ll let me know.

[This post is duplicated on the song’s page.]

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