“The Miramichi Fire”

Author: John Jardine = Thomas M. Jordan (?)
Earliest date: 1947 (Manny/Wilson)
Keywords: fire death disaster
Found in: US(NE) Canada(Mar)

Description

A great fire covers an area 42 by 100 miles. In less than a day it burns forest, houses, and towns, killing or wounding vast numbers. There is little for the survivors to do but bury the dead

Notes

By the early nineteenth century, with the fur trade moving into the Canadian west, the eastern provinces were turning increasingly to logging as a source of income, sending most of their wood products to England.

This had significant effects on the ecology. As the old forests were cut down, second growth invaded, which was naturally more flammable -- and if the fire grew big enough in one of the clear patches, it could spread to the old growth as well. The result was a constant fire danger.

Although none of the fires was as large as the one described in this song, at least one (the "Great Fire") is said to have burned 400 square miles. Adding a zero to that might perhaps have helped inspire this song. - RBW

Ives-DullCare: "Shortly after [the fire], John Jardine of Black River wrote a ballad about it which he almost certainly had printed and sold. Either he or, what is more likely, later singers put tunes to it.... At the moment ... no tune has a better right than the present one to be called, if not the 'original,' at least the most widespread." - BS

Laws cites the _Bulletin of the Folk-Song Society of the Northeast_ (#11) in attributing this song to Thomas M. Jordan. Obviously Jordan and Jardine are oral variants on each other. Jardine is the more likely; Manny and Wilson have a photograph of John Jardine (obviously in later life). - RBW

Historical references

Recordings

References

  1. Laws G24, "The Miramichi Fire"
  2. Creighton-Maritime, pp. 201-202, "The Miramichi Fire" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Ives-DullCare, pp. 62-64,250-251, "The Miramichi Fire" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Manny/Wilson 34, "The Miramichi Fire" (1 text, 3 tunes)
  5. DT 324, MIRAMICH
  6. Roud #2721
  7. BI, LG24