The Grand Falls Tragedy (Lehr and Best)

Attention ye workmen, come listen awhile,
I'll tell you a story about a danger so wild,
I'll tell you a story so tragic to hear
Concerning what happened one morning this year.

Concerning what happened one day in our town,
When three busy workmen were by death stricken down;
While the rest of us slumbered and all things so still-
This accident happened not far from the mill.

This accident happened about three o'clock,
When three in a flat-car (that) had been laden with rocks;
Fell down an incline, plunged fifty feet deep -
Far down in the rock-cut those men were asleep.

'Twas little they knew that the blocks in support -
(And this was the story the newspaper told)
The rock-laden flat-car somehow had become free,
And dashed down the railroad with the greatest of speed.

Those three men were injured who toiled unaware
(Of) the oncoming monster bringing death to them there;
They were quickly and sadly from the earth snatched away -
They were toiling that morning where the great danger lay.

Attention ye workmen, come list' one and all -
The names of those workmen I now will recall;
The first one was Marshall from old Carbonear,
Who died far from home, boys, and loved ones so dear.

The second was Tobin who met a sad doom,
As he toiled that morning when all was in bloom;
For he was a native of Ship Cove they say -
And sad was the tidings that went out that day.

The third helpless victim was young William All [sic],
He belonged to the town, boys, well-known to us all;
He were just a young fellow, a lad of nineteen -
Sure, the blow to his parents it must have fell keen.

Far down in the rock-cut so deep and so wide,
Those men toiled together each day side by side;
Of death never dreaming nor dangerous ways -
When suddenly death stared them each one in the face.

On Friday night, boys, the express came through,
With passengers loaded and all of her crew;
Those bodies were taken and put on the train,
Back home to be carried where sorrow did reign.

My story is ended, I have no more to say,
Those three stricken workmen now sleep 'neath the clay;
There God will keep them until we all meet,
In the great Resurrection in heaven so sweet.

####.... Author unknown. Traditional NL ballad ....####

Collected in 1975 by Genevieve Lehr and Anita Best from Mrs Harold (Bride) Rose [1917-?] of Red Island, Merasheen and Freshwater, NL, and published as #46 in Come And I Will Sing You: A Newfoundland Songbook, pp.81-82, edited by Genevieve Lehr (University of Toronto Press ©1985/2003).

Anita Best noted that she first heard this song one night when she and her Uncle Mack were visiting Mrs Bride (it is customary in Newfoundland to use Christian names, for both men and women, together with the title of their marital status). Best noted that her Uncle Mack enjoyed the song enormously; every so often during a pause in the singing he would interject 'Good woman!' or 'Well done!' Mrs Bride learned the song 'off a paper' and put her own air to it. When Anita Best asked her if she had composed the air she said, 'I can't remember - I might have.'

See more Lehr and Best songs.

From the Daily News October 9, 1907:
TERRIBLE ACCIDENT AT GRAND FALLS - The following message was received from Grand Falls yesterday: Six men were being taken across the River Exploits here by a cable-way, operated by a double-drum hoisting engine, the movements of which are controlled by signals given by electric lines, connecting the engine room and the breast works, where that signal man was stationed. The men boarded the scale-board on the west side of the river, about 7:10 a.m. today, to go to the east side. The hoist signal was given, and the scale board started across. When about twenty feet from the landing, owing to some misunderstanding, the stop signal was given, and the lower signal followed. The scale board was then slowly lowered, and before the engineer was made aware of the fatal error, it had dropped into the water at a point where the current is very rapid. Two men, George Porter and Gregory Kelly, brother of Conductor Kelly, climbed up the hoisting fall, and held on 'till they were rescued by ropes from the shore. The other men - Arthur Moore, a swimmer, recently of St John's; Louis Kelly, brother of Gregory Kelly, and Oswald Bursey, of Clarenville, - were swept off the scale board and carried down the rapids over the Falls, 120 feet below, while William Hutt, of Norris Arm, got caught in one of the chain supports, and was drowned on the scale board, his body being subsequently recovered. The bodies of the others have not yet been found. The Company has sent a search party down the river. William Hutt is married, and leaves a large family in poor circumstances. Kelly, Moore, and Bursey, are single. Last night it was reported that two other bodies had been recovered.


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