Can You Blame The Poor Miner?

© Maria Dunn, 2002 SOCAN

In the summer of 2002, I visited the Bellevue Mine in the Crow's Nest Pass. Emerging from the cold, black tunnel into a beautiful summer day in the mountains was a powerful experience, indeed. The nearby remains of the Frank Slide of 1903 must have testified daily to miners of the dangers in the area, particularly in the early 1900s. In 1914, the Hillcrest Mine explosion left 189 men dead and buried in a graveyard across the valley from Bellevue. Those thoughts, along with the knowledge of a thriving illegal liquor trade during Alberta's prohibition years (1916-1922), sparked this song.

From the CD We Were Good People CD (2004).

[audio:http://mariadunn.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/canyoublamethepoorminer.mp3|titles=Can You Blame The Poor Miner?]
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From heaven to hell, he passes each day
Can you blame the poor miner for spilling some pay
On rum-runner's booty to steel his resolve
Can you blame the poor miner?
Can you blame the poor miner?

Those temperance ladies are raising the roof
'Til you can't lay your hands on anything proof
But they've never spent a day not seeing the light
Can you blame the poor miner?
Can you blame the poor miner?
For seeking respite

With pick and a lantern he harvests the coal
Then climbs back out of that cavernous hole
To a constant reminder mountains will move
Can you blame the poor miner?
Can you blame the poor miner?

Thirty men lost when the Bellevue did cave
And Hillcrest's cold blanket of graves
Yet somehow he's hewn it all from his mind
Can you blame the poor miner?
Can you blame the poor miner?
His need to unwind

A family man, old country raised
A wife and children to feed on his wage
If he stands with the union to better his lot
Can you blame the poor miner?
Can you blame the poor miner?

From hell to heaven, he passes each day
There's a light at the end of the tunnel they say
Meantime there's comfort in draining a glass
Can you blame the poor miner?
Can you blame the poor miner?
It might be his last

Maria Dunn vocal, accordion · Shannon Johnson violin ·
Solon McDade upright bass

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Photo in CD Liner Notes: Miners underground in coal mine, Atlin, British Columbia, 1918 (Glenbow Archives NA-3602-25)