Gerry Ryan (Kenneth Peacock)

Now, all you young men who go chopping,
Please listen awhile to my rhyme,
Concerning the year I was working up there
With that foreman well-known, Gerry Ryan.

We first met this man on the journey,
Who promised us timber in store,
"Go up to the camps, b'ys, they're open,
And stay till the job is all o'er."

We quickly agreed with his suggestion
And joined him in old Bishop's Falls,
Being eager for work and employment so scarce,
Not knowing the wages were small.

We boarded the truck at the depot,
Our baggage went back in the rear,
'Twas little we thought as we journeyed along
The hardships you go through up there.

We passed by fine camps and still waters,
We were laughing and joking the while,
And then with a bound he brought 'er around,
Saying, "B'ys, we are up thirty miles.

Next morning we were armed with equipment,
A buck-saw, an axe, and a rod,
With forty-nine men to make wages
With only scrub spruce on a bog.

It's hard for a man to make money
When there's only scrub spruce to be found,
And if you refuse a bad chance on scale,
The word is you got to go down.

Seventy cents they would charge for a buck-saw,
And seventy a day for your board,
And then there's a fee for the doctor,
Out of one dollar twenty a cord.

We found no complaints with this foreman,
I think he is honest and square,
But it fell to our lot like cattle were bought,
And yoked to a buck-saw up there.

And when you lay down on your pillow,
No matter if you're asleep or awake,
You will think on the time you spent with Gerry Ryan
On the borders of old Rocky Lake.

####.... Author unknown (see notes). Traditional lumber camp ballad ....####
Collected in 1951 by Kenneth Peacock from William (Bill) Holloway [1883-?] of Kings Cove, NL, and published in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Vol 3, pp.748-749, by the National Museum of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

Kenneth Peacock noted that Bill Holloway told him this native ballad was composed in a lumber camp near Bishop's Falls, NL, where he was working in 1940.

A variant was also published as The Foreman, Well Known Jerry Ryan in Gerald S Doyle's Old-Time Songs And Poetry Of Newfoundland: Songs Of The People From The Days Of Our Forefathers (3rd Ed, p.68, 1955).

Another very similar variant was collected in 1977 by Genevieve Lehr and Anita Best from Cyril Keough of Plate Cove, NL, and published as #58 in Come And I Will Sing You: A Newfoundland Songbook, pp.103-104, edited by Genevieve Lehr (University of Toronto Press © 1985/2003).

Genevieve Lehr noted that John Ashton, professor of folklore at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook, told her that this song is reputed to have been composed by one Mr Butt from Fogo Island at a lumber camp in Bishop's Falls in the 1940s. It is a protest song about the harsh conditions endured by lumber camp workers. This camp was likely owned by the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company (A.N.D.). Lehr recalled Moses (Uncle Mose) Harris [1911-?] of Lethbridge, Bonavista Bay, NL, who spent several years as a cook in a lumber camp, once told her how sometimes woodsmen would chop off a finger or two to try and get compensation because working conditions were so bad.

See more songs by Lehr and Best

See more lumber camp songs from NL.


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