Michael Power, The Blind Minstrel
(Johnny Burke)

Attention, all kind hearted friends
to these few lines I write,
While I relate of Michael Power who,
while mining, lost his sight;
And with determined, manly pluck
this man did persevere,
To grind an organ on the street
that you could scarcely hear.

In wet and cold all day he stood,
this poor afflicted man,
An honest penny trying to earn,
the only way he can;
And with a squeaky, old machine
all day he walked the street,
Depending on the kindness
of a few friends he may meet.

Then Walter Clouton made a move,
Albert Martin and James Vey,
Imported down a grand machine
for this poor man to play;
They took up a collection,
and got down this grand machine,
That every day on Water Street,
in motion can be seen.

For such an act shows kindly hearts
of true and worthy men,
To show their kindness for the poor,
these few lines I pen;
All in our little island home
we'd like to see today,
Such men as Albert Martin,
Walter Clouston and James Vey.

####.... Johnny Burke [1851-1930] of St John's, NL ....####
Published in Burke's Ballads, pp.11-12, c.1960, compiled by John White and archived at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Libraries, Centre For Newfoundland Studies - Digitized Books collection.

See more songs by Johnny Burke

Notes from St John's, NL, c.1900:
With offices or businesses on Water Street in St John's, Walter Clouston was a commission merchant and store proprietor, Albert Martin was the owner of the Martin Hardware Company at 157-159 Water Street, and James Vey was a professional photographer with a studio on the top floor of the Gazette Building on Water Street after the great fire of 1892 until 1917.

Suzanne Sexty, Honorary Research Librarian, Memorial University of Newfoundland Libraries, wrote in her article, James Vey: Photographic Artist, a version of which appeared in the Newfoundland Quarterly, Vol 103, #4, pp.38-41, Spring 2011: "Johnny Burke, in his ballad Michael Power: The Blind Minstrel offers an insight into the kind of man that James Vey was. Power had been blinded in a mining accident and tried to earn money by playing a portable organ on the downtown streets. The organ, squeaky and old, didn't produce a very good sound. Vey, along with fellow Water Street businessmen Albert Martin and Walter Clouston, raised money to buy a new organ for Power. This story is consistent with George Vey's recollections of Saturday nights when the family would entertain disadvantaged persons."


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