The Northern Coal Miner

For most of my life I’ve worked here at the mine,
this dim miserable dusty old hole.
From when I rise from my sleep, ‘til I’m ready to drop
it’s all about digging the coal.

“Can’t slow down, Boys,” the boss cheerfully laughs,
his eyes so twinkling and bright,
“The demand for our stuff continues to rise
and, besides, we’ll need extra tonight.”

How I dream, as each day slips by me in the dark
how my life could have been different from this;
how instead of the aches, the cuts and the cough
I’d be up there, living day-to-day bliss.

The work is so tough I can barely recall
the times when it wasn’t so hard
back when I was young, and had fun with my friends
when my back was still straight, hands unscarred.

But good times never last and I was handed my lot:
mine or factory—a choice drawn from a hat
I closed my eyes, made a wish, and drew out my slip…
bad luck in the draw and that’s that.


And now every day, as I swing the hammer
and drill to cut the black rock by the tonne
I try not to think of the lucky ones up above
and the good times, through fate, that they’ve won.

The factory above is so different from here,
a place of joy built for life driven by skill.
Sure, there’s still lots of work to be done
but it’s clean, safe, and a place for good will.


But I know I should stop dreaming of those fine things,
pick up my tools, and do what I must.
My day’s quota of coal is not met for today
so I’ll get back to hacking rocks through the dust.

Tonight’s the biggest day of our calendar year.
Above ground they’ve been loading the goods all the day.
Down here we’ve turned on the second conveyer belt—
half for the furnace, and half for the sleigh.

And well I imagine the Boss’s big hearty laugh
tonight as the sleigh takes to air from the snow
finally loaded and ready for kids good or bad:
(SPOKEN) toys or coal, “Merry Christmas, Ho Ho Ho!”



About Maurice A. Barry

Coordinator: Teaching and Learning Commons, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Parent & Husband. eLearning consultant/coordinator. Program Development Specialist - eLearning (Department of Education; Retired). Writer: over 40 Math/Physics texts/webs. Developer & Manager of web content. Geek. Not into awards but loves comments.
This entry was posted in poetry/songs, Society and Culture and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Northern Coal Miner

  1. Mary says:

    Now I know where all my Christmas coal comes from:) Would like to hear the tune that goes along with this

  2. Tiny says:

    That’s how life was, and is. I would have loved to hear you sing this great lyric 🙂

  3. Factories weren’t/aren’t too good either. One of our neighbours, when I was a kid, was a retired miner. Her spent all day and every day in his garden or his allotment, just grateful for the fresh air.

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