Blackhearts of the Company

LYRICS

(Music and lyrics by Norma MacDonald)
We pay the bills we can’t ignore
And the rest we owe to the Company Store
With 9 kids and one on the way
You do what you gotta do for pay

For 20 years you break your back
Miles under the ocean black
Up before the sun could rise
That light it never touched your eyes

(Chorus)
But the Company never did care
‘Bout the black lungs of the boys down there
So we’ll raise our fist so the world will see
The blackhearts of the Company

Then they cut your wages by a third
I still remember when we heard
A cry went up all through the town
Said “we’ll bring those greedy bastards down”

And all the men they just walked out
From the earth below and stood devout
Then the Company showed their souls of black
Said then we’ll have to freeze or starve you back

(Bridge)
And the whole town sang a union chant
As we marched down to the Power Plant
Police there said you won’t get through
“You’ll be beggin’ when we’re through with you”
Words came to push, push came to shove
And the shots they rang out from above
You looked the devil in the eye
He shot your heart and hoped you’d die

Now your son Will was born today
And we’ll take flowers to your grave
And pray your fight wasn’t in vain
Please let there be something to gain

(Chorus)
Now I hope somebody out there cares
‘Bout the black lungs of the boys down there
Haven’t we known for all eternity
That greed’s bred in authority
And I hope that things won’t be the same
‘Cause of the day that bears your name
When we raised our fist so the world could see
The blackhearts of the Company

By NORMA MACDONALD

NORMA MACDONALD – VOCALS & ACOUSTIC GUITAR, PHIL SEDORE – LAP STEEL & PIANO, REBECCA ZOLKOWER – VIOLIN

About Norma MacDonald

Norma MacDonald was born and raised in New Waterford, NS and now lives in Halifax.  She likes Gram Parsons records, talking to strangers, potato chips, David Lynch movies and swimming in the ocean. She has released 4 criticallyacclaimed solo albums, the latest being 2015’s Burn the Tapes. For many years, she toured extensively as the front person of popular Celtic-folk band Highland Heights.

Resources

Growing up in New Waterford, I heard the story of William Davis many, many times. Davis was a New Waterford coal miner who was shot and killed by British Empire Steel Corporation (BESCO) police during a protest on June 11, 1925. Every year on June 11, we would be assembled in our school gym for the morning to listen to teachers and town officials talk about this “important day in our history”. We would squirm and fidget with anticipation of getting out there, because to a room full of little kids, Davis Day really only meant getting out of school early (It’s a half-day holiday in New Waterford and surrounding area). I knew that William Davis was “good” and The Mining Company was “bad” but that was really as far as my understanding went. I wanted to go outside and play.
Then in 2010, I was home from Halifax for a few days and decided to visit the Glace Bay Miner’s Museum. I hadn’t been there since I was about 8 years old. It was probably the first time I had ever listened to the story of William Davis as an adult. Suddenly details I had never paid attention to before jumped out at me—that Davis was a soon-to-be father of 10, that the mining company had shut down the town’s electricity as well as food and water supplies in an effort to force miners back to work during a strike, that these miners made pennies a week for incredibly dangerous and backbreaking work. Filled with anger and a profound sense of injustice, it was in that moment I finally “got” why it’s so important to keep telling his story (and ashamed that it had taken me so long to understand). I started writing “Blackhearts of the Company” in the car on my way home and released it on my 2011 album Morning You Wake.

Company Stores

Jeremy Akerman, Angus F. MacDonald

Beaton Institute, T-28: Recording conducted by Jeremy Akerman in 1967. Produced under the auspices of CHER Radio, Sydney, and first aired on Monday, July 31, 1967 on the occasion of the official opening of the Cape Breton Miners Museum.

 

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