KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – This Labour Day weekend we feature singer/songwriter Ernest Laidlaw as he performs his original tune “Standin’ the Gaff”.
The song is inspired by the bloody 1925 coal miners strike in Cape Breton, called after BESCO cut wages and cut off credit at the company stores. People were starving.
When the Mr. Burns-like J. E. McLurg, then Vice-President of BESCO, was asked whether the miners’ strike posed a threat to the company, he replied “we hold all the cards. Things are getting better every day they stay out. Let them stay out two months or six months, it matters not, eventually they will have to come to us. They can’t stand the gaff,” meaning they can’t endure the hardship, they’ll cave in.
That phrase ‘standing the gaff’ became a rallying cry of the strike.”
The 1925 strike lasted five months and culminated in a bloody battle at Waterford Lake, where coal miner William Davis was killed by company police on 11 June 1925. Armed forces were also called in to repress the strikers.
But stand the gaff they did.
Unfortunately I know nothing of Ernest Laidlaw. A comment to the Youtube video mentions that he died in June of 2014. He was clearly much loved by the people who knew him.