Coal Mining Tradition: Aftermath


There are tears today around Westray;
They have a hurt, the pain will stay.
The dust of coal and cruel methane
Destroyed a driving bid for gain.

With drill and loader close at hand,
He'd bore and scrape and watch and plan.
He feared the roof stone, hanging tough,
That sometimes crashed mid'st clouds of dust.

No need for haste now, want or speed,
To bolt the roof for safety need,
To aid a man in quest for wealth,
Who operate with ken and stealth.

And now these colliery men from home,
Shall never see their families grow,
Shall nevermore hear tiny feet
That ran to greet them from the street.

Devastated, anxious, and sad,
We rue the chance they never had.
We damn the need to place a blame,
When all you have is down the drain.

But morning sun will rise again,
As sure the rooster crows,
And man will toil beneath the soil
Where'er the coal seams grow.

Please enable Javascript and/or download Flash to hear audio and/or see video.

File Size: 57.7 MB [192 kbps]

Running Time: 04:12

About this Song

"The dangers of mining are always brought back to us when something tragic happens."

This poem, about the Westray Mine Disaster, was written by Al Provoe; it is recited here by Jim MacLellan of the Men of the Deeps. On May 9, 1992, a lethal explosion of "dust of coal and cruel methane" occurred at the Westray Mine, Pictou County, taking the lives of 26 miners. It was the worst mining disaster in Canada since the 1958 "Bump" in Springhill, Nova Scotia.

This video recording, produced by Folkus Atlantic in 1996, features a performance by the Men of the Deeps at the Glace Bay Miners' Museum.

Aftermath, 1996. The Men of the Deeps. FT-59. Beaton Institute, Cape Breton University.

About the Artists

Al Provoe was employed at Caledonia Mine No. 4 from 1949 until 1954. He was a mining poet and one of the original members of The Men of the Deeps.

The Men of the Deeps is a world-renowned male choral ensemble composed of former coalminers from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Inspired by Glace Bay activist, Mrs. Nina Cohen, and famed Nova Scotia folklorist, Dr. Helen Creighton, The Men of the Deeps was organized in 1966 as part of Cape Breton's contribution to Canada's Centennial Year (1967) with the specific aim of encouraging the people of Cape Breton to preserve in song some of the rich folklore of the Island's coal mining communities.

The ensemble's first performances were to thousands of people in packed theatres in Sydney, New Waterford, and Glace Bay. Those in attendance were highly impressed with the new choral group, including H.P. MacKeen, the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, who became the patron of the chorus. Concerts were then held in the Isle Royale Hotel, for the visit of the Queen Mother, the opening of the Miners' Museum, and for Expo '67 in Montreal.

In 1976, the group became the first Canadian musical ensemble to tour the Peoples' Republic of China, after diplomatic relations between the two nations were restored in 1972. Over twenty years later, they travelled to Kosovo to perform on behalf of the United Nations Children's Fund. The chorus received an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University College of Cape Breton (now Cape Breton University) in 2000. Recent concert tours have brought the choir as far north as the Northwest Territories and as far south as Arizona, Alabama, Florida and the Appalachian coal mining communities of Kentucky, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Since the group's inception, the musical director has been John C. (Jack) O'Donnell, now Professor Emeritus of music at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.