Coal Mining Tradition: Little Pinkie Engine

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About this Song

Little Pinkie Engine tells the story of a small 'saddle type' locomotive shipped from Scotland to the Caledonia colliery in Glace Bay in the middle of the nineteenth century. It was used to haul coal from the mine to the harbour. The song suggests that Little Pinkie became a recognizable symbol of the coal industry in the Glace Bay area.

This version is from a live recording of the Men of the Deeps on March 25, 1968, when they performed with the University Singers at Holy Angels High School auditorium. Francis H. Stevens of the Cape Breton Post reviewed the show the following day saying, "[they] gave vocal evidence of the beginning of a great tradition. There cannot be any doubt about it." This archival recording can be found on T-062 at The Beaton Institute.

Little Pinkie Engine, 1968. The Men of the Deeps. T-062. Beaton Institute, Cape Breton University.

About the Artists

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 first performed 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 at the Isle Royale Hotel, the opening of the Miners' Museum, the Queen Mother's visit (1967), 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.

Lyrics

1. Little Pinkie Engine, made a thousand trips
With coal from Caledonia for loading up the ships.
Ships, Ships, Ships!
With coal from Caledonia for loading up the ships.

2. Little Pinkie Engine, clack, clack, clack!
Coming down the railroad, shunting on the track.
Track, Track, Track!
Coming down the railroad, shunting on the track.

3. Little Pinkie Engine, hoot, hoot, hoot!
Passing over South Street, puffing out the soot.
Soot, soot, soot!
Passing over South Street, puffing out the soot.

4. Little Pinkie Engine, clang, clang, clang!
Children stopped to listen as the brass bell rang.
Ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong!
Children stopped to listen as the brass bell rang.

5. Little Pinkie Engine, with so many dins,
Will you press a scissors out of my two pins?
Snap, snap, snap!
Will you press a scissors out of my two pins?

6. Little Pinkie Engine, puff, puff, puff!
Watching out for kiddies who don't watch enough!

7. Little Pinkie Engine with your noise and smoke,
You brought a lot of comfort to big and little folk.
Smoke, smoke, smoke!
You brought a lot of comfort to big and little folk.