Commentary on Peter Emberley by Helen Creighton

There is no song of the local lumber woods so popular in the Maritime provinces as this one; in which a young man, known variously as Emberley, Amberley, Hembley, and Rambelay, meets an early death. Born in Prince Edward Island in 1863, he left an unhappy home to go lumbering in New Brunswick. There, when 18 or 19, he was crushed to death by a falling log.

On the day he was buried in Boiestown, New Brunswick, snowdrifts made the roads impassable, and a layman read the service. And so he was buried without benefit of clergy. His grave was marked with a wooden cross giving the date as 1881, and for years it was cared for by a Boiestown resident, a Mr. Henry McCarthy.

The incident might have been forgotten if John Calhoun …had not made up a song about it, which kept his memory alive so well that in 1963 Mr. McCarthy’s brother and sister erected a marble monument. Later that year the parish priest conducted a service and blessed the grave, and Dr. Manny placed a wreath beside the Emberley monument in memory of John Calhoun whom she described as a great folk poet. Dr. Edward Ives, who had earlier scattered red earth from Prince Edward Island over the grave, came from the University of Maine for the occasion, and so did Mr. Ken Homer, who for 10 years had acted as master of ceremonies at the Miramichi festivals; Alan Mills, professional folk singer from Montreal also came for the service.

No festival is considered complete without a rendition of this song and Mr. Kelsey Jones has written a symphony on the tune.



-Helen Creighton, Folksongs from Southern New Brunswick , pp. 232- 233
Canadian Centre for Folk Culture Studies 
Canadian Museum of Civilization, 1971 

Helen Creighton
c. 1971
New Brunswick, CANADA
© 1971, Canadian Museum of Civilization. All Rights Reserved.

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