DON'T GO DOWN IN THE MINE, DAD

(ROBERT DONELLY/WILL GEDDES) (1910)


Any copyrighted material on these pages is used in "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).

The origin of "Don't Go Down in the Mine, Dad" is not shrouded in mystery. It was composed by Robert Donelly and Will Geddes and published in 1910 by the Lawrence Wright Music Company of London.... Not finding any story on the song's background..., I enlisted the aid of Lionel McColvin of London's Central Music Library. He, in turn, ascertained that the song was apparently suggested by the great 1907 mining disaster at St. Genard in South Wales....

In an autobiographical study, Woody Guthrie wrote of his Oklahoma childhood: "The soft coal mines, the lead and zinc mines around Henryetta, were only seventeen miles from my home town.... I learned to jig dance along the sidewalks to things called portable phonographs and sung for my first cancered pennies the 'Dream of the Miner's Child'....
Vernon Dalhart's records of "Dream" were available in Okema [sic] stores by Christmastime, 1925, when Guthrie was thirteen. Richard Reuss, who has studied the Oklahoma bard extensively, suggests that this jigging period took place sometime before 1925. Guthrie's imprecise recollection may well indicate that he heard Henryetta miners sing the English music-hall song when he was a young boy, but that he substituted the secondary title in his 1947 memoir.

ARCHIE GREEN, Only a Miner: Studies in Recorded Coal-Mining Songs, Urbana, IL, 1972, pp. 115 & 120.

Lyrics as published by the Lawrence Wright Music Company, London, 1910
reprinted ibid., p. 116.
Another variant of the same song was recorded by Blind Alfred Reed on 19 Dec 1927 (as "Explosion in the Fairmount Mines")

A miner was leaving his home for his work,
When he heard his little child scream;
He went to his bedside, his little white face,
"Oh, Daddy, I've had such a dream;
I dreamt that I saw the pit all afire,
And men struggled hard for their lives;
The scene it then changed, and the top of the mine
Was surrounded by sweethearts and wives."

CHORUS: "Don't go down in the mine, Dad,
Dreams very often come true;
Daddy, you know it would break my heart
If anything happened to you;
Just go and tell my dream to your mates,
And as true as the stars that shine,
Something is going to happen today,
Dear Daddy, don't go down the mine!"

The miner, a man with a heart good and kind,
Stood by the side of his son;
He said, "It's my living, I can't stay away,
For duty, my lad, must be done."
The little one look'd up, and sadly he said,
"Oh, please stay today with me, Dad!"
But as the brave miner went forth, to his work,
He heard this appeal from his lad:

CHORUS

Whilst waiting his turn with the mates to descend,
He could not banish his fears,
He return'd home again to his wife and his child,
Those words seem'd to ring through his ears,
And, ere the day ended, the pit was on fire,
When a score of brave men lost their lives;
He thank'd God above for the dream his child had,
As once more the little one cries:

CHORUS

TO TOP OF PAGE
TO SONGS FROM THE MINES PAGE
TO HISTORY IN SONG PAGE
TO STARTING PAGE

You can email me at
manfredh@mainz.netsurf.de