My mother's mother's family were all musicians. Some were also great lumberjacks, but mostly they were musicians. Back in the 30's, they even recorded some 78's. Sadly, as the years passed, the number of musicians has dwindled to the point that the last one is my great-uncle Donny. Sadly, he is in such poor health that I don't think he'll be picking up a guitar again.
Anyways, I always wanted to have some way to record Donny playing so we could have some sort of record to pass on. Particularly, I wanted to have a record of him playing a song about the Drocourt rail disaster. Sadly, it never happened. Most of the options I looked at were either too costly or cumbersome to be practical. The best I have is a copy of the lyrics. Turns out, they're also on the internet.
Drocourt was a siding and station in Northern Ontario, one of countless stations and sidings that dotted this country in the first half of the century. At 3:58 in the morning on March 20, 1929, CN passenger trains number 3 and 4 collided just outside of Drocourt, killing 15. Apparently, number 3 failed to take the siding to let number 4 pass. Most of the deaths were caused by a coach that caught on fire with passengers trapped within. There is a monument in the Parry Sound cemetery dedicated to this disaster.
There's a great website with the newspaper reports of the accident - http://cnr-in-ontario.com/Articles/Index.html?http://cnr-in-ontario.com/Articles/Globe_19290321.html
I actually got to thinking about this because I was wandering around the web and wound up checking out some of the new portable digital recorders out there. Some of the basic ones aren't much more than a couple hundred bucks and they are surprisingly tiny. I may eventually pick one up. That's what got me thinking about Uncle Donny and the one song I'll likely never be able to record.
The song itself is a folksy affair. Like many folk songs, it shares its tune with many other songs.
THE TRAIN WRECK AT DROCOURT – MARCH 20th 1929
by Mrs. Ida Quackenbush and her son George Quackenbush
Come all you good people and listen while I relate,
How two fast trains of the CNR met with an awful fate.
‘Twas on a Wednesday morning, the time was half past three
When No.4 from Winnipeg crashed into NO.3.
The engineer from Parry Sound, Alexander was his name
Climbed in beside his fireman to guide his speeding train.
They sped along quite merrily through Waubamick did go
And did not stop at Drocourt which proved their overthrow.
Waubamick was their passing place but NO.4 was late
So No.3 got orders at Drocourt to wait;
At Waubamick, Alexander always met No.4
But for an instant he forgot and sped on as before.
The engineer on No.4 sped on thru sleet and snow,
All innocent of danger till he saw the lights aglow;
And in that awful moment, what could his feelings be
When he to his fireman gasped “My God, there’s No.3.”
There was an awful crash when those two big engines met
And all on board who still survive, I’m sure will ne’er forget.
For two cars caught afire as they lay there in the snow
How many perished in the flames, perhaps no one will know.
So let this be a warning to people old and young,
And get right with your Maker, for your time soon may come,
When you’ll be called in a moments time like those who’ve gone before
On two trains of the CNR, the numbers three and four.