STELLARTON — It’s not often that you associate school children with a fallen coal miner, but it was fitting that the G.R. Saunders Elementary School choir was on hand for the 93rd William Davis Miners’ Memorial Day ceremony on Monday.
For, as guest speaker John Ashton said in his remarks, children were also victimized by the callous, heavy-handed actions of mining company owners back in 1925 in New Waterford, Cape Breton.
Ashton spoke of children “clothed in flour sacks and dying of malnutrition” thanks to the actions of mine company officials who kept reducing credit and tightening the wages they paid the miners until 12,000 of them went on strike.
At the miners’ monument on Foord Street, a large crowd was on hand for the half-hour service and wreath laying. The choir added their voices to the service with renditions of O Canada, Working Man, and God Save the Queen.
Ashton, a local historian, said mining company police and others armed with clubs and guns mounted a “campaign of harassment and intimidation” that included the miners’ families.
The strike came to a head on June 11, 1925 when a sizeable group of miners gathered in protest.
“Before the miners could state their demands the riders charged the crowd,” Ashton related.
Over 300 rounds were fired by the mine police and enforcers that day, Ashton said. One of the bullets fatally struck miner Bill Davis who died within moments.
“He gave his life for the betterment of working people,” Ashton said. “…We are much better for honouring this.”
As a recognition of Davis’s sacrifice, the United Mine Workers of America designated June 11 in his honour.
This day not only recognizes Davis though, it ensures that the memory of all miners who were killed on the job is honoured, including all those who have given their lives in the shafts and seams of Pictou County.
Members of the G.R. Saunders Elementary School choir provided ukulele accompaniment during the Davis Day ceremony. (Burns photo)