The Blow Below The Belt (Anthony Ward)

See also: The Government Game (Pat Byrne)

And also: Out From St Leonard's (Gary O'Driscoll)

I'm sitting here on Harvey's Pier
in the city of St John's;
I'm thinking back on South East Bight,
the place where I was born;
I'm thinking back on Placentia Bay,
where all our people left,
After signing up that Government plan,
the blow below the belt.

'twas in the year of 'sixty-six,
the date I won't forget.
The Government plan was sent around,
I can see the paper yet,
"Sign it if you want to,
or reject it if you like,
The rules and regulations
they're there in black and white.

"Two hundred for each person,
a thousand to freeze your land,
Your house and property's still your own -
you may sell it if you can."
Some beautiful homes were left behind
for what else could we do?
If you asked someone to buy your home,
he'd say: "We're leaving, too."

Smallwood he got on the air,
each word he spoke seemed great:
"Haul up your punts and dories!
Destroy your stage and flake!
I'm moving you away from here,
employment sure you'll find,
And you won't regret the day
you left those outports far behind."

When fifty percent of the people
the Government plan did sign
The other fifty had no choice
'twas go or be left behind;
We moved in all directions
all around our native coast,
And bid good-bye to our home-sweet-homes,
the places we cherished most.

After we resettled,
everything seemed pretty odd -
Us independent fishermen,
we could not find a job.
But when elections rolled around,
we showed Joey how we felt,
We dropped him in his corner
and gave Frank Moores the belt!

There's one man's name I'll mention,
I'm sure that he won't mind,
That gentleman's name is Pius Power,
he's a real good friend of mine -
He moved from Clattice Harbour
back to the place I left;
He would not sign that dotted line,
that blow below the belt.

He's an independent fisherman,
everything he got, he owns,
Fishing gear of many kinds -
a schooner twenty tons.
He's as friendly a chap as ever you met,
and he'll tell you how he felt,
Why he would not sign the dotted line,
the blow below the belt.

Now to conclude and finish,
I'm still on Harvey's Pier,
A-gazing through the Narrows
o'er the sleepy ocean near;
I'm an employee at the Waterford,
I'm lucky, sure, myself,
That I didn't end up a patient
from the blow below the belt.

####.... 'Cove' Anthony Ward [1927-1999] of South East Bight, NL and St John's, NL (MUNFLA ms.84-125,34) ....####
This variant collected by Genevieve Lehr and Anita Best in 1983 from Anthony Ward [1927-1999] in St John's, NL, and published as #8 in Come And I Will Sing You: A Newfoundland Songbook, pp.15-16, edited by Genevieve Lehr (University of Toronto Press © 1985/2003).

Genevieve Lehr noted that this song's lyrics were written by Anthony Ward [1927-1999] who was originally from Southeast Bight. He was a prolific songwriter who usually left it up to someone else to compose the tune; in this case, the composer was Dave Panting. Lehr also noted that the Resettlement Program was carried out in Newfoundland during Joseph Smallwood's government from the 1950s to the early 1970s. Its aim was to relocate fishermen and their families from coastal communities to larger centres where they would find better job opportunities and public facilities such as hospitals and schools. Most of these people, Lehr added, were introduced to social assistance for the first time in their lives since the promised jobs were fictional. Placentia Bay was particularly hard-struck. When the smoke had finally cleared, over three hundred communities had been completely closed down, and those that remained were tombstones marking the passing of a large and noble part of Newfoundland history. As a final point, Lehr mentioned that the Waterford Hospital is a mental health institution in St John's, NL.

See more Lehr and Best songs.

From the Dictionary Of Newfoundland English:
Flake - platform built on poles and spread with boughs for drying cod-fish on the foreshore.
Stage - elevated platform on the shore with working tables, sheds, etc, where fish are landed and processed for salting and drying, and fishing gear and supplies are stored; fishing stage.


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