Music of Charles Wesley Pedley

The Halifax Explosion
Written by Charles W. Pedley
© 1967, 2010 by Pedley Family Foundation

At Halifax, two vessels rammed,
In 1917 A.D.
The one a deadly cargo held,
Her bulkheads jammed with TNT

'Twas shortly after nine o'clock,
That frosty bright December morn,
When with a sudden awesome sound,
The universe was split and torn.

At Bloomfield school I did attend,
The classroom we had just entered,
No orders did the teacher give,
She had not time to say a word.

Mid plaster, dust and flying glass,
We found the steps and then the door,
We thought it must be Judgment Day
Or invaders bringing hellish war .

The memory of the sights I saw
I cannot from my mind erase,
My mother looking for me then
Could hardly recognize my face.

We knew not what had happened yet,
But rumours flew both thick and fast, 
And so we trudged with many more,
Escaping from a second blast.

Six, nine and ten, we children three,
Could scarcely realize our plight,
My father went to work that morn,
But did not come back home that night.

We stood awhile in frosty fields,
And then we went back home again,
Because our house was damaged so,
Some kindly neighbours took us in.

My mother searched day after day,
Through all the halls then being used
For injured, dying, and the dead,
To give up hope, she did refuse.

Ten days went by before we heard,
My father had at last been found;
Down at the dry-docks, 'neath the snow,
Iron girders wrapped his body 'round.

Till Gabriel's horn shall call us all,
He lies beneath the maple tree
Near where the Titanic's victims sleep,
In quiet Fairview Cemetery.


Fairview Cemetery is in the middle of Halifax not far from the harbour. 

There is quite a story about how I found my grandfather's grave which bears telling some other time.

My dad's song above, written I believe to do something in memory of his dad is similar I guess to what I am doing here... remembering my dad, Charles Wesley Pedley

That is about as much as I know or probably will ever know about my grandfather, whom I have obviously never met as my dad was 10 at the time. 

The only memory my mother has is that Dad told her that my grandfather would go to pubs but never touch a drop of alcohol as there had been in past family history abuse of the liquid. 

At the pubs he became so good at playing checkers, my mother says, that he even beat the champion of Nova Scotia at one time. I still have the remains of a set of checkers made of a plastic-like material [perhaps Bakelite, an early plastic] and a wooden inlaid  checker board that he won once. 

I have a few other souvenirs of his such as an old pipe made from the burl of a branch, a pair of wire rim glasses with very thin frames.

In memory
-Charles, October 2010

Two of the Older Songs my Dad wrote when he was teaching in a one-room schoolhouse in a place called Coxvale as there were so many Cox families there.

Pine Tree Pedagogue

1. I'm just a pine tree pedagogue, 
I teach back in the sticks,
I have a little log school house
Not more than four by six 

Pine log schoolhouse, log schoolhouse built for me,
For I'm a pine tree pedagogue, far from the big ci-ty!

2. The pupils all look up at me
So innocent I think,
And yet the strangest things I find
A-floating in my ink.

3. Now do not chew your pencils up,
Such diet I forbid,
As food it may be right for goats
But 'twill not do for kids.

4. As I sat down in haste one day,
Sharp pains went up my spine
When I arose I found I'd sat
On a little porcupine (the version I remember said, "On a big fat porcupine!)

Back in the Backwoods

1. Back in the backwoods I got me a shack
Fixed up the windows and plugged up the cracks
Down in the city, I once used to roam
But back in the backwoods is now home sweet home.

Back in the backwoods, back in the backwoods,
Back in the backwoods, I'm free as the air.

 2. Back in the backwoods I see the sun rise
Shine through the pine trees and light up the skies.
Down in the city, there's hustle and sound,
But back in the backwoods, sweet peace may be found.

3. Back in the backwoods, I take out my gun
Shoot me a partridge or a deer on the run;
Down in the city, you can't buy such meat,
But back in the backwoods I've plenty to eat

4. Down in the city, I toiled all the day
To get enough money my bills all to pay,
Down in the city, I paid a high rent,
But shacks in the backwoods just cost a few cents.

5. Down in the city, the girls all came round,
I'd be their husband these ladies were bound;
Back to the backwoods, I've got a fine wife.


The Halifax Explosion Song Written by Daniel MacIntyre

Honouring the Life of Charles Wesley Pedley

Honouring the life of Charles Wesley Pedley, My Dad, a grandfather, a great-grandfather after his death.

What do I say about my dad?

He was from that old English stock, a gentleman, a blind man who learned to be cheerful and happy in spite of becoming blind, a musician, a composer. a wise man, a father who had no father, well at least not after his 11th birthday when the Halifax Explosion took him.

He did not talk much about his personal feelings. That was a characteristic of the age he grew up in. I do not ever remember him saying that he loved me. I don't remember him hugging me. I had to start those two things with him as I grew older and longed to hug my dad.

It is not that he didn't love me or my sister, Sylvia Wiens. He did. You could tell that by his other actions. But he lived without a father-example, he became a man in an age of revealing personal feelings as perhaps being weakness. And as a parent, you COULD NOT be weak.

I loved him, admired him but I just didn't know him on a personal level until he was dying of oesophagical cancer when he said, as I watched over him, "They are all dead now." I asked. "Who?" "All my old friends like Joe Wilson, and Harry Lowrey" (the farmer on whose farm my dad worked and the man who treated him like a son I am told) in Eastern Ontario.

Then he said, the most revealing thing, that even my mother who is 92 as of March 29, 2010 said, she had not known until I told her. He said, "I prayed for them, every day!"

For my nieces and nephews on my sister's side of the family, he was the only grandfather they had ever known and they loved his cheerful sense of humour. My sister's husband, Ted Wiens lost his father when he was young [??], and he grew up I guess much the same way but in a different age.

The picture here is probably my dad's most cherished memory and perhaps the highlight of his folk music career. He got to write the official ballad of Niagara-On-The-Lake's Bicentennial, [included later] AND got to sing it for the Queen Mother!

She shook his hand and he told my mother, "I'm not going to wash it for a week!" He was a monarchist. A historian. A man of passion under control. A Christian. A man who learned to cope so well with his blindness, that when someone explained something to him, he would say, "I see!"

He became a comfort and source of cheer to another blind man, in Niagara on the Lake, Mr. Jones, I believe.

Without knowing it, on a subconscious level, because he was always so healthy, his cancer sneaked up on us. I took him too much for granted. He got sick and passed away, in 1989, January, a few short months after seeing his oldest granddaughter, my daughter, Ann get married to Jon Guinn of Attleboro, Massachusetts. [It is so hard to say 'died' for some reason, maybe because we want to hold on to his memories as all that is left of this humble but accomplished man!].

Suddenly I thought of the times I had neglected phoning him, of visiting him. I resolved NEVER to do that again and let my mother be so alone. But I had regrets for some time that I had to deal with because of my neglect of him.

So if you are reading this, please do not neglect your parents, your mom and dad. They will not always be with you. I don't want you to have the regrets that I had to deal with for some time.

And now it is time to celebrate his life!

The life of Charles Wesley Pedley, MUI

[My dad had to go to work when he was 16 because of losing his father, so he never completed high school and of course, not any college. But he knew all kinds of stuff and he used to joke that he had his MUI. "Master of Useless Information"]

-Charles G. Pedley, the son
-For Sylvia Wiens, his daughter
-For Lilian Pedley, in 2010, in her 92nd year in March!
-For And all the grandchildren and great grandchildren that he never got to know and who never got to know him.

-I hope some others will contribute memories of dad, or grandpa as well. His oldest grandchildren were perhaps just pre-teens. Therefore they do not have many memories except the ones I mentioned about him having a very good humour about his blindness.

Halifax Explosion Actual Video

Explosion 1917: Explosion Now! 2000's

Halifax 1917: Shattered City

Halifax Explosion: Where My Dad Lost HIS Dad 1917

Halifax Explosion: Where My Dad Lost HIS Dad 1917

Northwest Passage


Calgary Folk Festival 2008