“Springhill Mine Disaster (1958)”


Describes collapse of mine tunnel in Springhill, Nova Scotia, 1958; twelve men are trapped in a cave-in, while several are killed. The lamps, food and water give out; after eight days some are rescued


I include this, although it's a recently-composed song, because it is solidly within the traditional ballad style, and because it's entered the common repertoire. - PJS

Usually listed as by MacColl and Seeger, but their official report is that it is "chiefly the work of Peggy Seeger."

The mine disaster of 1958 was not the only Springhill tragedy; there had been an earlier (and even more deadly) cave-in in 1891, for which see "La Complainte de Springhill (The Lament of Springhill)" and "Springhill Mine Disaster (1891)."

The town of Springhill is in Cumberland County, Nova Scotia, not far from the New Brunswick border, on the fringes of the Cobequid Mountains (really hills). There is still coal in the area, but it is now considered a minor resource; there is, in fact, a nuclear power plant nearby.

Joseph Ruby reports that MacColl's figures are inaccurate: "75 men were killed and about 40 were rescued - after 12 days, not eight." - RBW


  1. Silber-FSWB, p. 124, "Ballad of Springhill (The Springhill Mine Disaster)" (1 text)
  3. BI, FSWB124A


Author: Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger
Earliest date: 1960 (copyright by authors)