Jim Blake (MacEdward Leach)

"Jim Blake, your wife is dying,"
Came over the wires tonight;
This message was brought to the station,
By a boy half dead with fright.

He came in the office crying,
And his face was very white.
"Send this to dad in his engine,
Poor mother is dying tonight."

Jim Blake is our oldest driver,
He drives the midnight express;
He has handled the throttling lever,
For the most of his time on earth.

And when we saw the message
Was for our old friend, Jim,
We quickly sent it flying
Over the wires to him.

In less than half an hour,
The answer came back from Kirk:
"Tell wife I'll meet her at midnight,
Tell her l am praying for her."

Oh, I left the boy in the office,
Took the message to Jim's wife;
I found her a dying woman,
With scarcely a breath of life.

And when l entered her chamber,
She took me at first to be Jim,
And sank back almost exhausted,
When she found l was not him.

Over hill and dale and valley,
Pounded the midnight express;
Over trestle crossings and bridges,
She leaps as in sore distress.

But Jim holds onto the lever,
Guiding her maddening flight;
And a voice cries out in the darkness,
"God speed the express train tonight."

In something less than an hour,
The express train should be along;
But here is a message for me,
I fear there is something wrong.

Oh, yes, it spelled a disaster,
The express train is in a ditch;
The engineer is dying,
Derailed by an open switch.

And here is another message,
From the engineer, l guess:
"Tell wife I'll meet her in heaven,
Don't wait for the midnight express."

And now they both are dying,
The joys of life are o'er;
God grant that they meet in heaven,
There to part no more.

####.... Author unknown. Traditional American ballad ....####

Collected in 1951 from F Leonard (Leo) Molloy [1903-1989] of St Shott's NL, and published in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada © 2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA). A variant was first collected by Sigmund Gottfried Spaeth [1885-1965], and published in Weep Some More, My Lady, pp.139-140 (Doubleday Page and Company, Garden City, NY, 1927).

A variant was recorded by Marion Try Slaughter, aka Vernon Dalhart of Jefferson, Texas [1883-1948] (as Jim Blake on Brunswick Records, 1927, and as Jim Blake's Message on Old Homestead LP, OHCS129, trk#A.02, 1980).

A variant was self-published ca.1930 in a stapled booklet titled Old Time Ballads & Cowboy Songs, from Young & Sons Enterprises, Apache, Oklahoma


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