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Music Cape Breton's Diversity in Unity

Mining A Miner’s Life [Video]

Collected by George Korson
from the singing of Mrs. Luigi Gugliotta

1. Miner’s life is like a sailor’s
‘Board a ship to cross the wave;
Ev’ry day his life’s in danger,
Still he ventures being brave.
Watch the rocks, they’re falling daily;
Careless miners always fail.
Keep your hand upon the dollar
And your eyes upon the scale.

Union miners, stand together,
Heed no operator’s tale;
Keep your hand upon the dollar
And your eyes upon the scale.

2. You’ve been docked and docked, my boys,
You’ve been loading two for one;
What have you to show for working
Since this labour has begun?
Overalls, and cans for rockers,
In your shanties sleep on rails.
Keep your hand upon the dollar
And your eyes upon the scale.

3. In conclusion, bear in memory,
Keep the watchword in your mind;
God provides for every nation,
When in union they combine.
Stand like men and link together,
Victory for you prevail.
Keep your hand upon the dollar
And your eyes upon the scale.

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

A Miner’s Life, 1996. The Men of the Deeps/Joan Weeks. FT-59, Beaton Institute, Cape Breton University.

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 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.