George Alfred Beckett (MacEdward Leach)

George Alfred Beckett is my name,
as you may understand,
Brought up by honest parents,
I belong to Newfoundland,
From a pleasant little village
so beautiful and grand,
Near the Atlantic Ocean,
a place called Old Perlican.

My parents reared me tenderly,
the truth I will make known,
And good advice they gave to me
when I was leaving home;
My mother prayed for my return
as she had done before,
As I left home that day to roam
far from my native shore.

To the coal fields of Cape Breton,
my course I then did stray,
And for to get employment
I landed in Glace Bay;
But little did my parents think
when they bid me good-bye,
This awful crime I would commit
and be condemned to die.

One evening late last autumn,
as you may understand,
To take me out on Tower Road
I engaged a taxi man;
He little thought as we rode on
I had an iron bar,
These dreadful wounds for to inflict
and rob him in his car.

From thence I made a quick escape,
to get home was my plan,
I left Glace Bay and sailed away,
back home to Newfoundland;
It was 'bout three weeks later,
the police were on my trail,
Arrested me for murder
and brought me to St John's jail.

From there back to Cape Breton,
my trial for to stand,
And never no more to see again
my own dear native land;
The jury found me guilty,
the judge made this reply:
On the thirtieth day of April,
for this murder you must die.

Here's to my aged parents,
I now must bid adieu,
My sisters and my brothers,
and likewise my children, too;
I'm not forgetting my dear wife,
wherever she may be,
So loving kind and gentle,
for the fault is all with me.

I wish to thank all my dear friends
who were so kind to me,
My clergymen and lawyers
who tried to set me free;
Likewise the warden of the jail
who courage to me gave,
Long may he live to enjoy his health
when I am in my grave.

My life is almost to an end,
my days are just a few,
Take my advice and rightly live,
and avoid those troubles, too;
And never murder anyone,
no matter what you do,
Or like me you'll die on the gallows
at the age of forty-two.

Now to conclude and finish,
from this world I must depart,
For the murder of Nick Marthos
I'm sorry to the heart;
And let all men take warning,
take heed to what I say,
May the Lord have mercy upon my soul
when I do pass away.

####.... Phil Penney, a local coalminer from Cape Breton Island ....####

Sung by Mrs Peter Mushrow [1912-2002] of Cape Ray, NL, and published in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada, ©2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

From The Bay Roberts Guardian, Friday, December 31, 1930:
"George Alfred Beckett has made a full and complete confession to the murder of Nicholas Marthos, Glace Bay taxi driver, on Sept 22nd. Beckett was arrested several weeks ago at his father's home in Old Perlican and extradited to Glace Bay, Cape Breton."

George Alfred Beckett was executed on April 30, 1931. He was the last person to be publicly executed on the island of Cape Breton, NS.

A shorter variant was collected by Genevieve Lehr and Anita Best in 1976 from Moses (Uncle Mose) Harris [1911-?] of Lethbridge, NL, and published as #41 in Come And I Will Sing You: A Newfoundland Songbook, pp.71-72, edited by Genevieve Lehr (University of Toronto Press ©1985/2003).

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