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Lyr Req: Halifax (Chuck Hall)

open mike 30 Dec 05 - 06:08 AM
Charley Noble 30 Dec 05 - 08:20 AM
Charley Noble 30 Dec 05 - 08:44 AM
George Seto - 30 Dec 05 - 08:56 AM
Rapparee 30 Dec 05 - 09:21 AM
Charlie Baum 30 Dec 05 - 10:07 AM
Helen 30 Dec 05 - 02:31 PM
open mike 30 Dec 05 - 02:43 PM
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Subject: Lyr Req: Halifax shipwreck and fire in WW1
From: open mike
Date: 30 Dec 05 - 06:08 AM

I heard this as done by Chuck Hall.
The main character is the child of
a doctor who goes with their -- no i
think it is grand child....who accompanies
their grandpa to Halifax to go care for the wounded,
and orphans of this collision of 2 ships.
It seems as if the Dr. is from Boston,
as in the end, there is an annual Christmas
tree given to Boston by Halifax in memory
of the help that came from there...

any references to the historic event,
or the song?

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Halifax shipwreck and fire in WW1
From: Charley Noble
Date: 30 Dec 05 - 08:20 AM

Would this have to do with the WW I ammunition ship that caught fire and exploded in Halifax Harbour?

Charley Noble

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Halifax shipwreck and fire in WW1
From: Charley Noble
Date: 30 Dec 05 - 08:44 AM

More details:

In 1917 "The Halifax Explosion", the largest man-made explosion in the pre-nuclear age, took place when a French ammunition ship collided with a freighter. The resulting shockwave of the explosion shattered windows at least 50 miles away, killing over 1900 people instantly, with another 9000 people injured. 325 acres were completely leveled.

Charley Noble

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Halifax shipwreck and fire in WW1
From: George Seto -
Date: 30 Dec 05 - 08:56 AM

That would be known as the Halifax Explosion.

Not sure about the song, but there is a song collected by Dr. Helen Creighton which is in the DT out of one of her books.

Halifax Explosion

What the story is....

On Dec 6, 1917, at just after 9AM, two ships, the Mont Blanc and the Imo, met near the middle of Halifax's harbour, on the Dartmouth side. The ammunition ship, the Mont Blanc, had been in the harbour since the 5th and was on her way off to France to deliver her supplies. The Belgian ship apparently ignored standard practice and somehow ploughed into the munition ship. A fire started on the Mont Blanc. The crew abandoned her and she drifted over to the Halifax side.

Crowds gathered as the ships were burning. The Mont Blanc was not flying flags that indicated the cargo was explosive. That would have made her a target as she sailed the Atlantic.

The explosion that resulted was the LARGEST man-made explosion prior to the Atomic Bomb. It killed thousands of people outright and left many thousands injured. As many people were standing in front of windows looking out at the fires, a lot of the injuries were blindness caused by the flying glass. However the bulk of the deaths were due to fires caused when the explosion caused many of the wooden homes in the North End of Halifax to collapse upon themselves. Most homes of the day were heated by coal or wood. Also, the VERY next day there was a blizzard to compound the problems for rescuers.

Check out the various websites, using Halifax Explosion or Her Own War or Shattered City

Anyway on to the Boston Connection....
The city of Boston was among many groups who sent people, supplies, etc to help out. Including many doctors, and medical personnel. One of the reasons was the number of Maritimers who had relatives in the Boston region.

In the 1970s, the then politicos decided that something was needed to thank Boston, so an annual Christmas tree was sent on our behalf. Not quite sure who started it, the Provincial or City officials.

Among the results of the explosion were

1 - Standardization of fire equipment NATIONALLY
2 - Emergency/Disaster planning was created
3 - Hydrostone as a construction material was proven (ie cement)

Check the books and web-sites for further details. Lots of interesting stuff.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Halifax shipwreck and fire in WW1
From: Rapparee
Date: 30 Dec 05 - 09:21 AM

If I remember my visit to Halifax rightly, you can still see evidence of the explosion. Somewhere I have a book on it.

Apparently there was enough blame to go around: ships moving which shouldn't have been, things like that. No point to it, as those involved had utterly vanished in the blast.

Here's info on some other ammunition ship disasters:

On the morning of November 10, 1944 the USS MOUNT HOOD stood at duty in Steeadler Harbor on Manus Island, which is North East of New Guinea in the South Pacific.

The ship was delivering and receiving ammunition for the 200 ships that lay in the harbor at that moment. Sailors were working in all 5 holds at the time. The ship was full of 13,910 tons of ammunition which included bombs, projectiles, fixed ammunition, rockets mortars and depth charges.

Suddenly there appeared a small explosion near the middle of the ship that was quickly followed by an enormous explosion. The radius of the smoke was 1,000 feet and the smoke quickly rose to a heigth of 7,000 feet.

The explosion caused damage to ships as far away as 2,000 yards and at least 30 of the nearby ships were damaged by the blast and flying ammunition. Major ships that were damaged were the USS ARGONNE, USS YMS-340, USS MINDANAO, USS ALHENA AND USS OBERRENDER.

Nothing remained of the ship. It was later determined that the blast tore a hole in the sea bottom 85 feet deep, 1,000 feet long and 200 feet wide.

382 sailors were killed and 371 injured on all effected ships. Needless to say no one survived aboard the USS MOUNT HOOD.

Port Chicago was a shipping town on the San Francisco Bay. Liberty Ships and Navy Ships would come into the base and be loaded with munitions that would be sent out to the Pacific Theatre of operations. Late in the night of July 17, 1944 the SS E. A. BRYAN and the SS QUINAULT VICTORY lay at Port Chicago taking on enormous amounts of bombs, ordnance and cordite. Just about the time the 1,500 residents of the town were going to bed an enormous blast broke the silence of the night, blasting both ships and the wharf area around them to shreds.

Passengers in an airplane flying over the area saw house-sized pieces of metal fly up past them.

The blast was felt in Oakland, Alameda and San Francisco. Some areas thought that another earthquake had occured. Flames could be seen from 50 miles away and buildings had structural and glass damage for 20 miles distance. All of the homes in Port Chicago were damaged. A friend of mine was in a bar in Concord and he stated that glass shattered and people hit the floor as they thought the Japanese were bombing them.

The next day almost nothing of the E.A. BRYAN was found and not much more of the QUINAULT VICTORY was located. QUINAULT VICTORY was found upside down and 500 feet from where it has been loading.

Also, very little was found of the 321 crew members who were loading ammunition on the ships that night.

April 16, 1947 -- the SS Grandcamp, a French ship, was being loaded with a mixed cargo of small arms ammunition, wire and other things. Then the ammonioum nitrate fertilizer in number 4 hold caught fire....

The result was used as an example in the book "Effects of Nuclear Weapons," both the 1957 and 1962 editions.

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Subject: Lyr Add: HALIFAX (Chuck Hall/Trad Newfoundland)
From: Charlie Baum
Date: 30 Dec 05 - 10:07 AM

The song is available at

--Charlie Baum

Webpage contents copied below:


(Words:Chuck Hall, Music: Trad. Newfoundland)

I first learned about the Halifax Disaster at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax in 2001. It was hard to face my own ignorance of such a stunning event, especially being from Boston, which had such a large role to play in the recovery of Halifax. I could honestly not ever recall anyone explaining why the citizens of Nova Scotia gifted the citizens of Boston with a Christmas tree every year.

Dedicated to the folks at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, to the remaining survivors of the greatest man made explosion recorded before Hiroshima, and to those who were so quick to lend aid to a neighbor in time of need. May we never forget.


My Grandfather received the news at 12:00 that day
He closed his doctor's office and sent everyone away
He rushed straight home and gathered all the clothing he could pack
And took me with him on the train that went to Halifax

We were among the hundred souls to crowd into the car
I was the only child allowed seated at the bar
We waited for the blankets to be loaded in the back
Still unprepared for what we'd see when we reached Halifax

I asked my Granddad doctor why it was he was so sad
He turned his face away from mine and said, "You'll understand..."
I pieced the truth together as I over heard the facts
There was a great disaster had befallen Halifax

The year was 1917, in the first great war
Two ships collided in the Narrows and drifted in to shore
With thousands drawn to see this thing, they blew up with such might
Near half the city was destroyed in a fireball of light

Hundreds then were blinded by glass and by debris
The tidal wave it swept away some who died instantly
That night the heavens tried to hide the horror of this show
The city smoldered underneath a brand new foot of snow

When we arrived in Halifax, a cloud hung in the air
The oil, the fire, the flesh, the flood, the stench was everywhere
Grandfather took me to a church where the wounded lay
And said, "God has given us a work in Halifax today."

And I still recall the children, now they were orphans who
Were without homes and parents and so close to Christmas, too
After seven days we packed our bags and turned and headed home
As relief poured in to Halifax from Boston and beyond

The many years that have since passed have not dimmed memory
The horror of that awful scene is still so fresh to me
But the people of the Commonwealth asked for nothing back
When they went north to help rebuild the port of Halifax

Now each year when Christmas comes, it all comes back to me
They set the Nova Scotia spruce for everyone to see
My daughter's daughter sits upon my shoulders and she claps
When Boston's Christmas tree is lit -- a gift from Halifax

Then joyful voices carry out our carols to the skies
Thousands gather every year but most can't tell you why
So many can't remember what so many can't forget
And the Halifax disaster is commemorated yet
The Halifax Disaster -- we will not forget

Chuck Hall: vocal
Kristen Miller: cello
Thomas Eaton: various and sundry keyboards
(c)2003 Chuck Hall. Lyrics reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Halifax shipwreck and fire in WW1
From: Helen
Date: 30 Dec 05 - 02:31 PM

A recent thread on the Halifax Explosion, which includes references to some songs.

happy? � Dec 6 (Halifax Explosion)

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Halifax shipwreck and fire in WW1
From: open mike
Date: 30 Dec 05 - 02:43 PM

I firts head the song on the live 365 radio
which i found from a link on the club passim
radio stream.
Hallfolk Radio:
"There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in." (Leonard Cohen)

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