#02737
The July Fire (Johnny Burke)

On the eighth of last July,
when the wind was blowing high,
And the sun was shedding out
its golden rays,
When a woman rushed in wild,
and she holding on a child -
"Mr Cluney, Tim Bryant's barn is in a blaze."

I was sitting at my tea
and the Herald on my knee,
And a piece of cold pig's jowl
upon my plate,
Sure I didn't wait for more,
but I rushed out through the door,
And I put a hat, I thought, upon me pate.

Out rushed old Cluney
like a devil through the street,
He passed everything he'd meet
as he hecked it on his feet;
And the flakes of flying embers used
take him in the teeth,
As he heeled it that night for the fire.

The boys began to grin
when they saw me rushing in,
And the girls from laughing
nearly fainted dead;
I put up my hand to see
if the laugh was all on me,
When I found me wife's old bonnet on my head.

I was nearly parched with thirst,
sure my tongue did nearly burst,
And my lips that night with thirst
did nearly parch;
And I came across a jug
and I put it to my mug,
When I found 'twas nearly filled
with Coleman's starch.

Out rushed old Cluney
like a devil through the street,
He passed everything he'd meet
as he hecked it on his feet;
And the flakes of flying embers used
take him in the teeth,
As he heeled it that night for the fire.

The firemen soon arrived,
and on me they soon contrived,
To get a stream of water on my head;
I woke from my repose
with my nose across a hose,
"Oh for mercy's sake," says I,
"don't kill me dead."

My mouth was open wide,
faix, I feel a pain inside,
When a stream shot down my throat
I gave a bawl;
Faix Bedad! I'm half afraid that I swallowed
Bull-joint, branch pipe, hose and all.

Out rushed old Cluney
like a devil through the street,
He passed everything he'd meet
as he hecked it on his feet;
And the flakes of flying embers used
take him in the teeth,
As he heeled it that night for the fire.

The whisker that I pride
on that very morning died,
'Twas burned as clean as any grove of birch.

####.... Johnny Burke [1851-1930] of St John's, NL ....####
Published in Burke's Ballads, p.8, c.1960, compiled by John White and archived at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Libraries, Centre For Newfoundland Studies - Digitized Books collection. This is Burke's light-hearted ballad about the 1892 fire that destroyed much of St John's. It was originally published in The St John's Advertiser and Fishermen's Guide: A Racy Little Song and Joke Book (St John's: Prescott Street Auction Mart, 1894).

See more songs by Johnny Burke.

From Newfoundland And Labrador Heritage:
The St John's Fire - broke out in a St John's stable after a lit pipe or match fell into a bundle of hay. Although containable at first, the flames quickly spread due to dry weather conditions, a disorganized fire department, and poor planning on the part of city officials. Within hours, the fire had destroyed almost all of St John's, leaving 11,000 people homeless and causing $13 million in property damage.

Translated from the French Wiktionary:
Faix - burden; heavy load.

From the Old Testament, Genesis, chapter 36:35:
Bedad - father of Hadad, king of Edom. Apparently used herein as a mild expletive.

From the Dictionary of Newfoundland English:
Hecked - walked or jumped quickly.



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