Dalhousie University Archives

Nova Scotia Ballads

[Page 81]

Preston Babes

Good people read these verses,
Which I have written here,
And when you have perused them,
You can't but shed a tear.
In Eighteen hundred and forty-two,
April the eleventh day,
Two little girls from Preston Road,
Into the woods did stray.
Their father and their mother
Both sick in bed did lay,
While these two little children
About the door did play.
And hand in hand together
They seen them leave the door.
The eldest was but six years old,
The youngest only four.
Jane Elizabeth and Margaret Mahar
Were their two pretty names
Two of the fairest creatures,
That e'er did Nature frame.
[Page 82]
They walked along together
And cheerfully did play;
But mark what followed after,
How soon they lost their way.
There in the lonely wilderness
They spent a dismal day.
They night came on, they though of home,
Their streaming eyes give way.
The frosty gale blew very hard,
Not a star to yield them light,
The beasts of prey the feared all day,
The screaming owls at night.
They might have been discovered,
But for that simple race,
Ye Preston niggers1, wash your hands
And wipe off your disgrace.
You cruel Brown, that heard them cry,
And did not take them in,
May God reward or punish you,
According to your sin!
[Page 83]
But when the shocking news
Did reach the neighboring town,
Each manly heart with pity swelled,
And then for grief atoned,
Saying “Poor Mahar, your babes are lost,
And you are left forlorn,
So true it is, it bears remark
that ‘Man was made to mourn2.’"
Early the next morning
Went out one hundred men.
They found poor Mahar and his wife
Searching the lonely plain.
First casting their eyes to heaven,
And then upon the ground,
With prayers and groans and dying cries
Distracted as they roamed.
‘Twas all that week they hunted,
But alas it was in vain,
For in the lonely wilderness,
Their infants did remain.
[Page 84]
Though oft they stopped to listen,
They never could hear a sound,
At twelve o’clock on Thursday,
A bloody rag was found.
Think, gentle reader, what a sight,
If we could them behold3,
Dying in the wilderness,
With hunger, fright and cold.
Not a mother by to close an eye,
Or friend to wipe a tear.
A Pharaoh’s heart would surely melt4,
Their dying cries to hear.
On the 14th day of April,
Went out a valiant crew,
To search the woods and dreary plains,
As hunters used to do.
‘Twas Halifax and Dartmouth,,
Preston and Porter’s Lake,
Twelve hundred men assembled,
A final search to make.
[Page 85]
‘Twas Peter Curry found them
At twelve o’clock that day,
On Melancholy Mountain,
But lumps of breathless clay.
Their hair was dragged from their heads,
Their clothes in pieces torn,
Their tender flesh from head to foot
The prickly thorns had gorn.
The frost it stole upon their hearts,
Their blood began to chill,
Their tender nerves could not obey,
With all their art and skill.
Headlong they fell, they felt their souls,
Unwilling, take their way,
And left their tender bodies
On dismal rock to lay.
No longer did they leave them
For the birds and beasts to tear.
On decent biers they laid them
And graced with odors fair.
[Page 86]
To the father’s house they carried them
Their mother to behold.
She kissed them both a thousand times,
Though they were dead and cold.
Their father quite distracted was,
And overcome with grief.
The neighbours tried to comfort him,
But gave him no relief.
The cries of their poor mother
Were dismal for to hear,
To think that death had her bereft
Of those she loved so dear.
On the 17th of April
They were in one coffin laid,
Between Elmsvale and Elms Farm,
The little grave was made,
Where thousands did assemble,
Their last farewell to take,
Both rich and poor lamented sore
For the poor children’s sake.
[Page 87]
The rain was fast a-falling,
And dismal was the day,
When, gazing on Elizabeth,
Methinks I heard her say:
“Farewell, my loving neighbours,
Return, dry up your tears,
Let us two lay in this cold clay,
Till Christ himself appears.”
Five pounds reward was offered
To the man that did them find,
But Curry he refused it,
As a Christian, just and kind.
May God forever bless him,
And grant him length of days,
The humble poet,D. G. Brown5,
Shall ever sing his praise.
Ye gentle folks of Halifax
That did turn out so kind,
I hope in Heaven hereafter,
A full reward you’ll find.
[Page 88]
Not forgetting those of Dartmouth
Who turned out rich and poor,
Likewise those of Preston
And round the Eastern shore.
Now to conclude and make an end
Of this my mournful song,
I beg you will excuse me
For writing it so long.
That I another thing like this
May never have to pen.
This is the first, I hope the last.
God grant it so, Amen!


niggers: Use of racist terminology.
‘Man was made to mourn': In reference to poem by Robert Burns by the same name written in 1784.
them: Written in pencil on in the margins is the word 'them'.
A Pharaoh’s heart would surely melt: Phrase used in reference to the biblical story of Moses, where the Pharaoh did not to relent to the releasing the Israelites, despite many trials inflicted by god.
D. G. Brown: Written in pencil in the margin 'G.B.D Dan Blois was the author'. Who authored the ballad is a contented issue as explored in an article in the Dartmouth Free Press, by Dr J P Martin, April 12, 1962.
Anonymous. Date: 2014-10-16