Well, hello, stranger, how do you do?
There’s something I’d like to say to you.
You seem surprised I recognize;
I’m no company stool but I just surmise
You’re from the place I’m longing to be.
Your smiling face seems to say to me
You’re from the island, your land and my land,
So tell me can it be-
Are you from Bevan? I said from Bevan
Where those fields of stumps they beckon to me.
I’m glad to see you!
Tell me how be you,
And those friends I’m longing to see?
If you’re from Union Bay or Courtenay or Cumberland
Any place below that Bevan second dam-
Are you from Bevan? I said from Bevan,
‘Cause I’m from Bevan too!
Now it was way back in 19 and 12
Our gas committee was put on the shelf.
First we walked out, then we were locked out-
Then by a foul we were all but knocked out.
Our union miners faced guns and jail,
Hundreds of us were held without bail,
But by August 1914 our labor they were courting,
But they blacklisted me
Are you from Bevan, I said from Bevan, cuz I’m from Bevan too.
It seems appropriate to start out with this song which I first heard sung by Phil and Hilda Thomas at the Vancouver Folk Song Circle years ago.
A bit about Bevan first. Bevan is now a ghost town which was first established as a major coal mining operation around 1902 until the 1950’s. The Black, Chinese and Japanese workers who made up a large part of the workforce were severely racially discriminated against . They even had boys in the workforce.
The history of this area is well documented in The Cumberland Museum. You can take an historic walking tour of previous Japanese and Chinese townships with placards describing the lives of those who lived there. This is one that explains a lot.
The displays at the Cumberland Museum proudly reflect on their labour history as aptly stated in their displays.
Quite a large section is devoted to Ginger Goodwin, as well as a stretch of Highway 19 designated as “Ginger Goodwin Way”. (Albert) Ginger Goodwin, angered by working conditions, advocated for workers’ rights and promoted unionism. He fought companies that disregarded workers’ rights and participated in and led multiple strikes. It is widely believed that he was shot and killed as a result of his activities.
Since 1986, Goodwin’s legacy is celebrated, along with that of the 295 miners who died in accidents over the decades, in Cumberland with Miners’ Memorial Day, organized by the Cumberland Museum and Archives. This tradition continues to this day with a vigil being held every year during Miners’ Memorial weekend, with people placing flowers on Ginger Goodwin’s grave.
More about Ginger Goodwin
And the fields of stumps referred to in the song? More on that later.