McCanning's Hanging (Garfield Barry)
(Canning's Hanging)

Now, young and old I'd pray take warning,
Listen a while, now lend an ear;
It's of a murderer who of late transported,
Here in this city on this last New Year.

Francis McCanning committed this murder,
Listen a while and you'll understand;
He being a native of another country,
And took situation in Newfoundland.

He shipped this girl here to be his servant,
He always had her at his call;
But little she knew that she stood in danger,
For to lose her life by a pistol ball.

Now, he kept a saloon all in the city,
And he been well-liked by rich and poor;
There was none as welcome as Mary Nugent,
That's why she served on McCanning's floor.

Until she told him of her marriage,
It would take place in three week's time;
Sure that enraged McCanning's anger,
And he swore he'd balk her from her design.

'Twas a case of pistols he then got ready,
And the devil pumped him at his own command;
But the oath he swore I'd vile to mention,
She'd never wed no other man.

Now, they went out for to pay a visit,
But a short while after he turned home;
The first to enter being Mrs Theresa,
She heard two shots and a deadly moan.

For to import it sure she did hurry,
'Twas to police force she did run;
Now, for the death of Mary Nugent,
Francis McCanning, sure you'll be hung.

Francis McCanning, being a man of honour,
With a loving wife and children three,
'Twas little she thought he would disgrace her,
For to see him hang in the gallows tree.

But he was a heathen or a Presbyterian,
He'd thought his trial may go farther on;
Because he being a poor Roman Catholic,
Winter sentenced him to be hung.

Now, but instead of a mournful hanging,
He was like a school boy going to a fair;
The small birds sang as they sang melodious,
And they flew around him in the air.

Now, the night before McCanning's hanging,
Almighty God did all confound;
With lightning flashing and thunder roaring,
And the wrath of God made a dismal sound.

Now, he had two clergies just to attend him,
Both night and morning for to pray;
To have him tried amongst the angels,
And to have him tried on the judgement day.

Almighty God, he was ready to meet him,
To save his soul and hear what he'd say;
To have him resist amongst the angels,
And to have him judged on the judgement day.

Now the Evening Telegram is getting ready,
And soon the news will spread around;
About the death of Francis McCanning,
Hung in the city of St John's town.

####.... Garfield Barry of South East Bight, Placentia Bay, NL ....####

Collected in 1978 by Eric West from the singing of Fergus Leonard [1905-1983] of Placentia Bay, NL, and deposited in the Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA 78-236, ms p.146)

Note: Based on events reported in "The Canning Case" in The Evening Telegram of St John's, NL, July 1, 1899.
~ Janet McNaughton, Canadian Journal For Traditional Music, 1984.


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