Bearheart, it was the English side of the family who ran the still, but I have no doubt that my Hungarian side purchased their fair share from him. I use the term Hungarian loosely. From what I have gleaned so far, they were probably Rus, which would have made their life all the more lonely. There was no Greek Rite Catholic church on the Island and the Catholic Church in their area of the mines, was manned by Flemish Brothers, who spoke no English.
The coal mines of Vancouver Island were at the turn of the last century considered the most productive in the world and the most deadly.
It wasn't that the coal mined was any more dangerous or the geology particularly more treacherous, but it was away from the public scrutiny of European sensibilities in the far outreaches of the "Colonies". Rampant greed was, as always, the driving force with the owners and life was cheap.
A Chinese miner, usually allocated the most life threatening position at less pay than a European, even in death, did not warrant a name, only a number. There were always more, desperate for work, lined up to adopt the same number and continue in the fallen miner's place.
The expression for hopelessness was "not having a Chinaman's chance", coined during tunnel building on the CPR line when Asians were hired to set the dynamite charges. The expression was certainly in use in the mines as well. Along with the Chinese, Englishmen, the Scots and the Irish, Hungarians, Rus and Italians, worked on the same shift, some unable to speak the same language and many inexperienced, which only compounded the subterranean danger.
The first attempts to form Unions were over safety issues, not pay and were met with the usual harsh reprisals.
Of all the songs about mining, You Won't Get Me Down In Your Mine, which I first heard hauntingly performed by John Gothard in the early 70's, says it all for me. Rough and crude as they were, I'm still proud of my heritage.
The following provided by Malcolm Douglas:
You Won't Get Me Down In Your Mine
You won't get me down underground in your mine
Away from the trees and the flowers so fine
Down in the dark where the sun never shines
You won't get me down in your mines.
They dig for the coal for the most of their lives
Away from the children, away from their wives
To make others rich, in the heat and the dark
But who's going to care when they're too old to work?
There's many a miner who died underground
Died all alone when the roof tumbled down
Trapped in the dark underneath the great beams
And choked out his life in the gas-filled coal seams
I'll work in your factory, I'll work on your farm
Dig roads till the muscles stand out on me arm
I've fought in your army, I've been out to sea
But by Christ, you won't make a coal-miner of me.
The first verse is repeated as a chorus.
Transcribed from the 1973 Leader LP "Songs of a Changing World" (Jon Raven/Nic Jones/Tony Rose), sung unaccompanied by Jones, so you'll have to work out "chords" for yourself! Words and music were written by Colin Wilkie (publisher, Feldman), apparently in response to a mining disaster that occurred in Germany in 1963.
Malcolm posted lyrics in this thread (click)