The Voice of the Worker

LYRICS

“The Voice of the Workers” – music, arrangement: Richard MacKinnon
Composer: Joe Wallace 1923

Corn beef and sauerkraut,
pig’s feet and tripe ,
Plaster pie and cold tea.
A drag on my pipe
That’s my fare, for my tastes ain’t fine
Gotta to count the gulps from my grub, when I dine.

Dollar lid, Woolworth tie, blue cotton shirt;
Grey socks and shoddy shoes,
Brown, beneath the dirt, that’s my style
for my tastes ain’t fine,
Gotta to stretch my dough double when I’m buying’.

Lean to or tenement, Paper- shingled shack,
Drafty doors, and choked flues,
Outhouses at the back, that’s my home,
for my tastes ain’t fine
The box I get when liven’s like the one I get when dyin’?

What’s my work, you ask?
I dig coal a spell,
I Sheer sheep and I skin steers,
I’m a Lumberjack as well
Making heaven from half the world, getting half for mine.

(J.S. Wallace, MLH, 6 October 1923: 4)

 

By Richard MacKinnon

RICHARD MACKINNON – VOCALS, BREAGH MACKINNON – PIANO, MIKE MACDONALD – STANDUP BASS, JOHNNY HAWKINS – DRUMS, JOE WAYE JR. – GUITAR SOLO

About Dr. Richard MacKinnon

Dr. Richard MacKinnon is the former Tier One Canada Research Chair in Intangible Cultural Heritage at Cape Breton University (2005-2012). His research interests include all aspects of Atlantic Canada’s culture including oral traditions, music, language, material culture and vernacular architecture. He grew up in New Waterford, playing in bands with his brother and friends and still performs with Cape Breton bands, ByGones and Misfit Boys. He is the founding director of the Centre for Cape Breton Studies, a research centre at Cape Breton University that includes a state-of-the-art digitization lab and the Rotary Music Performance Analysis Room that is used by faculty, visiting scholars, undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral students.

Resources

The song, “Voice of the Worker” appeared in the Maritime Labor Herald 6 October, 1923, p. 4.

Joe S. Wallace (1880-1975) was a member of the group of Atlantic Canadian poets known as “The Song Fishermen,” which also included Stuart McCawley, James D. Gillis, Andrew Merkel, Charles Bruce, Kenneth and Robert Leslie, Molly Beresford, Ethel Butler and others. Alexander Kizuk says that Wallace achieved “a degree of notoriety as a Communist poet published in the Soviet Union and Canada.”1[1] Kizuk, “Molly Beresford and the Song Fishermen of Halifax: Cultural Production, Canon and Desire in 1920s Canadian Poetry,” p. 178. 

Gwendolyn Davies points out that the Song Fishermen “were to represent a Nova Scotia voice in poetry at the very time when rural values and the oral tradition were being eroded by out-migration, a changing economy and the impact of modern media.”2[2] Davies, “The Song Fishermen: A Regional Poetry Celebration,” p. 138. 

Joe was the author of five volumes of poetry. James Doyle, professor Emeritus of English at Wilfred Laurier University notes that “he was also a reporter and columnist for several periodicals, including the three major Canadian Communist newspapers, the Worker (which was published from 1922 to 1936), the Daily Clarion (1936-39), and the Canadian Tribune (1940-75).”3[3] Doyle, “The Canadian Worker Poet: The Life and Writings of Joe Wallace,” p. 80.

Joseph Sylvester Wallace was born in Toronto on October 29, 1890 into a family of seven children. After his mother, Mary Polly Redmond, died in childbirth, his father, Thomas Wallace, moved the family to Nova Scotia where they lived in Halifax, Truro and Sydney. In the early 1920s he became a member of the Communist Party of Canada and wrote for various left wing periodicals across Canada. 

Encyclopedia Entry for Joe Wallace

 Born 1890 in Toronto; died there 1975. Canadian poet. Wrote in English.

In 1919, Wallace became one of the secretaries of the Independent Workers’ Party of Nova Scotia, which in 1921 became part of the Communist Party of Canada. Wallace was in prison from 1941 until 1943. His first book of poetry was published in 1943. The subjects of Wallace’s collections of verse All My Brothers (1953) and Hi, Sister; Hi, Brother (1956) are the working people, the champions of justice, and the USSR.

WORKS

The Golden Legend. [Foreword by I. Armand.] Moscow, 1958.

In Russian translation:

Stikhi, 2nd ed. [Foreword by B. Polevoi.] Moscow, 1964.

Source:

http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Joe+Wallace

References 

Davies, Gwendolyn. (1987). “The Song Fishermen: A Regional Poetry Celebration.” In People and Place: Studies of Small Town Life in the Maritimes, ed. Larry McCann. Fredericton: Acadiensis Press.

Doyle, James. (1994). “The Canadian Worker Poet: The Life and Writings of Joe Wallace,” Canadian Poetry, 35, Fall-Winter. Here is a link to Doyle’s article: http://www.uwo.ca/english/canadianpoetry/cpjrn/cpjrn/vol35/doyle.htm

Doyle, James. (2002). Progressive Heritage: The Evolution of a Politically Radical Literary Tradition in Canada. Waterloo: Wilfred Laurier University Press.

Kizuk, Alexander. (1993). “Molly Beresford and the Song Fishermen of Halifax: Cultural Production, Canon and Desire in 1920s Canadian Poetry.” In Gwendolyn Davies ed., Myth and Milieu: Atlantic Literature and Culture 1918-1939: 175-194. Fredericton: Acadiensis Press.

Breagh Mackinnon and “Red” Mike MacDonald recording “The Voice of the worker”

The Ballad of Slim McInnis // The Ballad of Slim McInnis - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  1. The Ballad of Slim McInnis // The Ballad of Slim McInnis - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  2. Doscomocracy // Doscomocracy - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  3. Trampin’ Down the Highway // Trampin’ Down the Highway - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  4. Quaint Harbour // Quaint Harbour - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  5. Blackheart’s of the Company // Blackheart’s of the Company - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  6. Stand the Gaff // Stand the Gaff - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  7. Michael’s Tune // Michael’s Tune - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  8. Arise Ye Nova Scotia Slaves // Arise Ye Nova Scotia Slaves - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  9. Whatever It Takes // Whatever It Takes - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  10. The Wearing of the Red // The Wearing of the Red - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  11. Down at Sydney Steel // Sydney Steel - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  12. Stronger then Steel // Stronger then Steel - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  13. Steel Winds // Steel Winds - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  14. A Cape Breton Lament // A Cape Breton Lament - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  15. An Seann Tigh Sgoil // An Seann Tigh Sgoil - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  16. Friday Evening // Ian MacDougall - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  17. The Voice of the Worker // The Voice of the Worker - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  18. Daughters Awake // Daughters Awake - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  19. Cape Breton Miner and Besco // Cape Breton Miner and Besco - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  20. Miner’s Wife // Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  21. Steel Workers Lament // Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest