Coal Mining Tradition: Plain Ole Miner Boy

Click to enter photo gallery

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

File Size: 5.07 MB [192 kbps]

Running Time: 03:41

Low bitrate for slow connections [1.48 MB / 56 kbps]

About this Song

Nell Campbell was born and raised in North Ingonish. She lived in Ingonish with her family until she was 16, when she needed an emergency operation in Sydney. After recovering from surgery, she moved to Glace Bay to find work. While there, she met Joseph Campbell, a local coalminer. Nell and Joseph eventually decided to get married and raise a family.

One of Nelly Campbell's hobbies was writing poetry. In the 1950s, after spending a couple of years writing poems, Nelly Campbell started writing songs about various themes, including the life experiences of miners and mining in Cape Breton. She entered some of these songs into a songwriting contest held by CJCB Radio. Some of the songs that she wrote won various prizes in this contest, including her song Plain Ol' Miner Boy. After the contest, the song became quite popular in Cape Breton and was recorded by various local artists.

She had this to say about the song, "Being a miners' wife, and raising a family in a mining town in those days, maybe we could say some of the things in the song are true. We did eat a lot of bread and molasses. I sincerely hope that some of the people will still get some pleasure from it."

This song has become well-known all over Cape Breton as a result of the talents of local performers such as Willie Odo, Charlie MacKinnon, and the Men of the Deeps.

Plain Ole Miner Boy. Willie Odo. John C. O'Donnell Tape Collection. Beaton Institute, Cape Breton University.

Lyrics

1. I've been a miner all my life, I work in Caledonia.
I had nine kids from a good kind wife, but one died of pneumonia.
Now we've only got the eight, some big and some are little.
It takes most ev'ry cent I make to buy them milk and vittles.

Chorus:
I'm a plain ole miner boy, a tough hard-workin' miner boy.
I have a few on Saturday night and I sleep all day on Sunday.
Sunday nights we go to town to hear our preacher, Parson Brown;
I'll be going down that ole mine shaft when the whistle blows on Monday.

2. Sixteen feet to keep in shoes and sixteen hands in mittens.
Maw gives them all a dose of oil whenever she sees fitting.
Maw makes their clothes from flour sacks and things she can mend over
And you can see ole Robin Hood sometimes when they bend over.

Chorus:
I'm a plain ole miner boy, a tough hard-workin' miner boy.
I have a few on Saturday night and I sleep all day on Sunday.
I lead a very simple life, but I love my kids and I love my wife;
I'll be going down that ole mine shaft when the whistle blows on Monday.

3. Sometimes I'd like to stay at home, and have myself a heyday,
But then I'd have to get a loan to meet my bills on payday.
Most folks take in the hockey game, for their favourite team a-rootin'
But I work night shift in the pit, down at the face a-shootin'.

Chorus:
I'm a plain ole miner boy, a tough hard-workin' miner boy.
I have a few on Saturday night and I sleep all day on Sunday.
My hands are hard and rough from work, but my job I'll never shirk.
I'll be going down that ole mine shaft when the whistle blows on Monday.

4. We can't afford no fancy clothes and we're not stuck up or classy,
And sometimes when the going's rough, we eat our bread with 'lassie;
Now some folks may think I'm a jerk or some more names I won't mention,
But I've just got ten more years to work and I'll retire on pension.

Chorus:
I'm a plain ole miner boy, a tough hard-workin' miner boy.
I have a few on Saturday night and I sleep all day on Sunday.
As soon as the pay comes in it's spent; I ain't got much but I'm content.
I'll be going down that ole mine shaft when the whistle blows on Monday.