The Miramichi Fire by John Jardine

by John Jardine

This is the truth, that I now tell you
For mine eyes in part did see
What did happen to the people
On the banks of the Miramichi.

The seventh evening of October,
Eighteen hundred twenty-five,
Two hundred people fell by fire;
Scourged those that did survive.

Some said it was because the people’s
Sins did rise to mountain high,
Which did ascend up to Jehovah,
He would not see and justify.

In order to destroy their lumber
And the country to distress,
He sent a fire in a whirlwind
From the heaving wilderness.

‘Twas on the Nor’West first discovered,
Twenty-two men there did die
When it had swept o’er the Meadows,
To Newcastle it did fly.

While the people were a-sleeping,
Fire seized upon the town,
Though fine and handsome was the village,
It soon tumbled to the ground.

It burnt three vessels that were building,
And two more at anchor lay,
Many that did see the fire,
Thought it was the Judgement Day.

Twelve more men were burnt by fire
In the compass of that town;
Twenty-five more on the water
In a scow upset and drowned.

A family below Newcastle
Were destroyed among the rest,
Father, mother and three children,
One an infant at the breast.

Thirteen families were residing
Just out back of Gretna Green,
All of them were burnt by fire,
Only one alive was seen.

Then it passed to Black River,
Where it did burn sixty more;
So it forced its way with fury
Till it reached the briny shore.

Forty-two miles by one hundred
This great fire did extend;
All was done within eight hours,
Not exceeding over ten.

As I have spoke of things collective,
Now I intend to personate,
And speak of some of my acquaintance,
With whom I was intimate.

A lady was drove to the water,
Where she stood both wet and cold,
Notwithstanding her late illness,
Had a babe but three days old.

Six young men, both smart and active,
Were to work on the Nor’West,
When they saw the fire coming,
To escape it tried their best.

About two miles from where their camp stood
They were found each one of them,
But to paint their sad appearance,
I cannot with tongue or pen.

To see these fine, these blooming young men,
All lay dead upon the ground,
And their brothers standing mourning,
Spread a dismal scene around.

Then we dug a grave and buried
Those whom did the fire burn;
Then each of us who are living
To our dwelling did return.

I heard the sighs, the cries and groaning,
Saw the falling of the tears;
By me this will not be forgotten,
Should I live a hundred years.

Sisters weeping for their brothers,
Father crying for his son,
And with bitter, heartfelt sorrow,
Said the mother, “I’m undone!”

It killed the wild beast of the forest,
In the river many fish.
Such another horrid fire,
See again I do not wish. 

A few days after the disaster, John Jardine of Black River wrote his narrative in verse of the Great Fire. Sung to a slow, durge-like tune, the ballad is still well known in Miramichi

- Louise Manny, Songs of Miramichi, pp. 145 - 148

John Jardine
Louise Manny
c. 1825
CANADA Northern New Brunswick, New Brunswick, Northern New Brunswick, CANADA
© 1968, Brunswick Press. All Rights Reserved.

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