Scoops and Scrapes; songs of the underground by Brian Crowe
The Daily Bulletin September 5, 2008
I kind of thought I had seen everything there was to see underground at our Sullivan Mine here at Kimberley. Well, on Wednesday, August 6, in the afternoon, this group of 26 miners from back east were on tour in our province — it was something to do with mining, and British Columbia’s 150 year anniversary.
We happened to be working over across the Mark Creek in the big old Sullivan tunnel on the 3900 foot level. The visitors — all 26 of them — were to examine the new Sullivan Mine Interpretive tunnel and that they did. It was a sight you don’t see every day. We went over to help greet them when they arrived in the tunnel. They came in and were the most gracious bunch of guys I had ever met. They all gathered to hear and watch as Bill Roberts did his routine on mining Sullivan style, in days gone by in Kimberley. With the media and guests also on hand, the trip underground was of the highest of standards. The talk was on mining, with a language all its own. ‘The round’, ‘the back’, ‘the footwall’, ‘legwires’, ‘stopes’, ‘millholes’, ‘drawholes’, ‘tramming’, ‘slushers’, ‘hooking up’, ‘barring’, ‘the cut’, etc. The event of miners meeting miners wasn’t that long, but it was like time didn’t matter, it was suspended, we could have talked mining for hours. The coal mines of Cape Breton or the hard rock way of the Sullivan are very universal. They too had tragedies, they too had experiences and yes, they too had characters, just like us. It was a brother thing even though we were thousands of miles apart.
I had mentioned that suspended time, after Bill Roberts did his jackleg demonstration, the spokesman for the group got them all together and they formed a circle. They all got their highs and lows and then broke into a song called I think “dust in the lungs”. The harmony was outstanding, the acoustics were of an amphitheatre, the sound was clearer than clear. It was eerie; the hair stood on the back of my neck; it was like a dream or something. I am sure every miner who walked the drifts of the Sullivan Mine over the day, their souls were sparked that day.
These were special moments at the new Sullivan Mine Interpretive Centre and Railway. The famous Men of the Deeps were here. They played to a capacity crowd at McKim Theatre that night. It was truly a night to remember — the stories, the songs, the way of life as a miner, the family, the community, it was all there. The voices of these 26 men were world class, their lights did shine on the day in August and Kimberley won’t forget them.
I think they could have had two shows, two nights. If they ever come around here again, go and see them. They are worth it.
As they sang and told stories, I couldn’t help thinking is this back east or is it the same here at Kimberley. It was so familiar— what they were saying, it was all so much the same.
The comment underground was that the concert should have been performed there, the sound was so pure. I talked to Jim Boudrea after the Concert, who came from Cape Breton. He tried to get them here a few years ago, but it never happened. I take my ‘hard hat’ off to Teck Cominco, the province of BC and Mick Henningson with his Sullivan Mine and Railway crew for the great effort in bringing these coal miners in.
I remember the Men of the Deeps saying, “Kimberley, where have you been” You know, we’ve been here for 100 years plus. We were the greatest in the world.
Last month the Men of the Deeps brought home to many what Kimberley was all about, its deep roots of mining made this town tick, the people and their ways were second to none, many have passed. We worked and played to the fullest, we too had a time deep within a mine called the Sullivan.