The Mines Of Avondale (MacEdward Leach) video
#2543: YouTube video by Jay Smar1
©2011 ~ Used with permission ~

Ye people all both great and small,
I pray ye will attend,
And listen unto those few lines
which I have lately penned;
To hear my lamentation would
cause you to grieve and wail,
It's about this awful cave-in
in the mines of Avondale.

It happened in eighteen hundred
and sixty-nine,
Them miners all they got a call
for to work in the mine;
But little did they ever think
that death was going to steal,
Their lives away without delay
in the mines of Avondale.

To see the father and the son
how they were filled with joy,
To see the men all going to work
and likewise every boy;
That dismal sight in broad daylight
soon made their cheeks turn pale,
To see the breaker burning
o'er the mines of Avondale.

A consultation then was held
to see who'd volunteer,
To enter in that open shaft
to free their comrades dear;
Two Welshmen bold, without delay,
their courage did not fail,
To enter in that awful shaft
in the mines of Avondale.

'Twas down to the bottom they did go,
they were in great dismay,
One got smothered for the want of air,
the other did remain;
He gave them a sign for to pull him up
for to tell the awful tale,
That all were lost forever
in the mines of Avondale.

The next two that did go down
of them they took good care,
And every opportunity they sent
them down fresh air;
To see the father and the son
'twas arm-in-arm so pale,
Oh, wasn't that a heart-rending
sight in the mines of Avondale.

Now to conclude and finish,
the number I'll pen down:
One hundred and ten brave stout men
were buried underground;
They're in their graves for their last days,
their widows to bewail,
The orphans' cries will rend the skies
through the mines of Avondale.

####.... Author unknown. Variant of a native American ballad, The Avondale Mine Disaster [Laws G-6] Native American Balladry (G Malcolm Laws, 1950/1964) ....####
Collected in 1951 from John M Curtis [c.1877-?] of Trepassey, NL, and published in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada © 2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

MacEdward Leach also collected a variant published as #106, The Mines Of Avondale, in Folk Ballads And Songs Of The Lower Labrador Coast by the National Museum of Canada (Ottawa, 1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

A variant was collected in 1956 from Charlie Weeks of Glace Bay, NS, and published as #60, Mines Of Avondale in Ballads And Sea Songs Of Newfoundland by Elisabeth Bristol Greenleaf and Grace Yarrow Mansfield (Folklore Associates, Hatboro, PA, 1968).

The video above features a variant performed live by Jay Smar of Coaldale and Orwigsburg, PA. Jay pointed out to GEST that he took this variant in the 1960s from Rounder Records in MA. It was sung by John Quinn in 1947, inside the New Kirk Coal Mine in Tamaqua, PA, and recorded by journalist George Korson, who worked for the local newspaper but had an infatuation with coal mining songs. Korson had various coal mining song books out, and the mid-1960s book containing this song was called Minstrel of the Mine Patch.

From the glossary of the Reading Anthracite Company's History:
Breaker - building in which anthracite coal is sized and cleaned before shipment to market.

From the Labor Heritage Foundation's Inventory of American Labor Landmarks:
On the east side of US Route 11 in Avondale, Plymouth Township, PA: Sept. 6, 1869, one of the worst disasters in the history of US anthracite mining occurred at the Avondale Mine. A fire, originating from a furnace at the bottom of a 237 foot shaft roared up the shaft killing 110 miners, 80% of whom were Welsh. On Sept 9, 1869, the last body was removed from the mine. The disaster also killed two boys, ages 10 and 14, who began working just that day.

See more mining songs from NL.


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