© Al Provoe
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.
“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.
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.