“Moody to the Rescue”


"Word came down to Derby town in the spring of '59: McGowan's men had smashed the pen & left for the Hill's Bar Mine." Col. Moody finds the miners do not wish to fight on Sunday. Moody says "Things look all right, so where's the fight?" and heads home.


In 1856 gold was discovered near on Fraser River (Vancouver Island), and subsequently the area was host to a massive influx of gold-seekers not only from Canada but America, Europe, and even Australia.

In 1859 two American miners were accused of assault by a man named Dixon. The local magistrate at Fort Yale, named of Whannell, put Dixon in jail for safe keeping and issued a warrant for the two Americans. When they were caught they were put into the jail at Hill's Bar, under the jurisdiction of another magistrate, Perrier. Perrier decided he was going to handle the case and sent a constable to Fort Yale to retrieve Dixon. Whannell refused to release Dixon and instead jailed Perrier's constable. When Perrier heard about this, he deputized Ned McGowan and sent him after Dixon and the constable.

McGowan arrived at Hill's Bar with a dozen armed men and arrested Whannell, charging him with contempt of Perrier's court. The exaggerated account of the proceedings that reached the capital indicated that American miners at Hill's Bar had broken into the jail and were attempting to overthrow the British authority. Colonel R.C. Moody and a force of Royal Engineers and marines were sent out. They arrived, arrested McGowan, and charged him with assault on Whannell. The presiding judge, Begbie, fined McGowan five pounds and lectured all parties (and Whannell and Perrier in particular) on the impartiality of British law. American miners were to receive the same treatment under British law as British citizens, and at the same time the American miners had to understand that on British soil they were to abide by local laws.

This incident became known as 'Ned McGowan's War.'

From Fowke/MacMillan - Collected from Patrick Graber of Vancouver in 1970. Graber says he got the words from 92-year-old Henry Hawkins, who said he had heard it fifty years earlier. Hawkins could only recite the words, not the tune and Graber set the words to 'The Keach i' the Creel' (Child 281). Another source, Billy Wardell of New Westminster, said he had heard "old Harry Wiltshire" sing the song in 1927, and claimed the opening line should be "word came down to Sappertown." - SL

Historical references

  • 1859 - Ned McGowan's War

Same tune

  • The Keach i' the Creel (File: C281)


  1. Fowke/MacMillan 5, "Moody to the Rescue" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Roud #17698
  3. BI, FowM005


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1969 (Fowke/MacMillan)
Found in: Canada(West)