A Fateful Day Arrived Suddenly


A fateful day suddenly arrived,
On the Intercolonial Railway, to a good citizen,
Coming from Acadieville early in the morning,
Unaware he was so close to his cruel end.

Early the same evening, a train would be passing,
To wait at a certain time, to take on passengers,
All found their way, all walked to board the train,
The unfortunate no doubt fell on the road.

The train, ready to move, departed suddenly,
Going on its way by order of the stationmaster,
Who, undoubtedly, had not seen, the unfortunate one who had fallen,
And the train on its way passed over him.

The train conductor gave the signal to stop,
While, with great regret, he noticed,
The state of the unfortunate one being crushed in two,
Judge, my dear colleagues, the state of this unhappy man.

The pain was intense when they had to wrest him,
From under the wheels of the carriages which had to pass over him,
To wrest him it was necessary to move him,
And, undoubtedly, to drag him onto the edge of the platform.

Linen was prepared to shroud him,
And they had to put him on some planks to pass the night;
They consulted together carefully,
And they put him on some planks inside the station.

Early the same evening, a telegram was sent,
To the coroner, no doubt, to examine him;
He arrived the following morning,
He decided his death was an accident.

Let us contemplate together tha fate of the human species,
That a death leading us astray from our last bread;
Let us be careful to be well prepared,
Because God reserves the right to judge us.

Let us keep the memory amongst us to-day’
Of this cruel event of the eighteenth of August,
His name is a reminder to remember it better,
It is Joseph Johnston of Acadieville.

This local ballad seems to be extremely rare. No other version has been found anywhere. It tells of a fatal railway accident that took place in Acadieville, New Brunswick. The village of Acadieville is situated not far from Newcastle, where the song was collected.

The song is an excellent example of an Acadian local ballad. The subject of the ballad is presented in the first verse; in following ones, the tragedy is described; and at the end a comment is added about man’s cruel fate, and about a need to be prepared for death. Many ballads that commemorate tragedies have a clearly fatalistic message,

The rareness of this ballad makes it difficult to identify. We do know that its origin can be no earlier than 1876, year of the construction of the Intercolonial Railway, crossing New Brunswick from North to South. Many local ballads about tragedies were composed at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.

Helen Creighton, La Fleur du Rosier,  pp. 241-2

Helen Creighton, Ronald Labelle
c. 1876
CANADA Northern New Brunswick, New Brunswick, Northern New Brunswick, CANADA
© 1988, University of Cape Breton Press. All Rights Reserved.

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