The Ballad of Slim MacInnis

from by Kev Corbett

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***The voice of a pissed-off steel worker on strike at the Dominion Steel Co, Sydney, Cape Breton, 1943. His name was John McInnis, but everyone called him 'Slim'. Labour in the 40s: everyone was in company housing, shopping at the company store. My granddad was the Union leader involved in the dispute, which ended with Sydney's first collective Agreement, and the founding of Steelworkers' Local 1064.***

Source material: 'Dosco's Inferno' (1943), by John J. 'Slim MacInnis

NOTE: 'Dosco' was the colloquial name for the Dominion Steel and Coal Corporation (1928-1968) of Cape Breton NS Canada, and has no relation to any other company past or present operating anywhere in the world under the name DOSCO.


Oh, tired I am of ceaseless toil
The endless cares and woes
Paupered years, and deathless fears
That a low paid worker knows.
My toil filled life is fraught with strife
And all that I have to show
Are these callused palms, workworn hands
And a feeling I'm dying slow.

And it's 123, woe is me
I'm working' at the Do'S'Co mill
I love my girl and all the boys in the shop
and the rest can go to hell

From earliest youth like a broken tooth
In a Godless way I've slaved,
In Do'S'Co's mills where the labour kills
And hastens early graves.
Well I shovel ore thru a furnace door
In the heat of the boiling steel
Where the stink and glare of the poisoned air
Is a hellish thing to feel.

I've grown so sick of the look of the brick
And the hammers and the tongs and the pails
And the mud and the mire and Mclntyre
And the flame that never fails.
The checkers so hot and Foreman Watt
And Ritchie who's always there
Like a Simon Legree be seems to me
With a cruel and crafty stare.

The charging cars and the hammer and bars
And the smoke of the metal trains
The ladles and the pans and the barrows and fans
And the screech of the hoisting cranes.
Oh! weary am I of the few who try
To scab and pamper the boss
Confidential men and those who pretend
Concern for production lost

For the many must work for the few who shirk
Them high paid few who prize
The money and ease and the luxuries
Of private enterprise.
They are hypocrites, who'll rack their wits
And worry and scheme and plan
For some christian way to lower the pay
Of the honest working man.

But bear in mind there will come a time
And come it soon, I pray
When the stooge and the boss aside we'll toss
And build for a better day.
And then we'll produce, for the common use,
For the man in the field and the ditch,
And we'll liquidate their profit rates
Along with the idle rich.

So for better or worse I'll end this verse
On a note of hope my friend
"There's a crimson star that shines afar,
And the longest night must end."


from On the River Off the Lake, track released August 30, 2015
Lyrics: poem by John J. 'Slim' McInnis
Adapted by Kev Corbett
Kev Corbett: slide guitar
Jason Mingo: Producer



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Kev Corbett Halifax, Nova Scotia

“The man is an exceptional guitar player – for one thing – but also writes extremely clever, finessed, clockwork folk-pop songs whose singable surface belies a tremendous underlying sense of craft. It was really great to see him again.” – Jowi Taylor, Six String Nation

“Well-crafted, skillfully written songs, dazzling guitar playing. Son of a Rudderless Boat is a marvelous listen.” – Penguin Eggs
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