Lonely Heroes: Abroad Song Introductions And Lyrics


Keeper of the Peace

The establishment of the Peace Corps is a global legacy which was the initiative of famous Canadian Lester B. Pearson. This tribute song has received accolades from Canadian Forces personnel worldwide, and has been presented to retired General Romeo Dallaire. Can be seen performed live on Youtube at the Edmonton Earth Day Festival.

Spied through a sniper’s gun-sight, I carried the legless child
Near a playground where a tall swing once stood.
Once a verdant city, broken, wasted, burned, defiled
Only rubble…that once was a neighborhood.
After we flew in, and tried to reason what was left
I asked the master, what was my station?
Please answer me, or are you forsaken here
I dreamed I heard the spoken word so clear.
He said the evil that you see, is why I brought you here
Do what you can to spare the souls not taken.
And be [I’m] a builder of a new school, heal the wounds, and gunfire cease!
Be [I’m] a sweeper of the landmines….a Keeper of the Peace!
To wear this Blue Beret, I know I have to stay
I have to keep on proving that I’m worthy
Of my country’s prayers for me, and if only eyes could see
I’m facing elder’s wisdom before I’m thirty.
And when evil-powered and twisted souls become the brain behind the gun
In a world where hunger tempts for fortune
Be the only one who can, as a father to a son,
And above all show a strong and sharing hand.
And know that I…am only human
I’m a Keeper of the Peace.

The War Bride

40 000 women came across to Canada in 1919 to seek and marry the “Commonwealth Soldiers” they had met during the war. Another 40 000 arrived in 1945. Recently on the playlist of CKUA radio’s ”The Celtic Show”.

My Caledonia…so far away
‘Cross the wide ocean… long, long the day
Westward I travel…let go the tears
Farewell Nova Scotia…rain down on the Pier.
From this rolling railyard…watch Canadi-ay
Four days through the wild land… there I will stay.
And so soon shall I see…my marryin’ man
Up on the Altar…a new church in the plan
Where a battered piano…awaits my command
And my Commonwealth soldier…steady’s my hand.
My Caledonia, so far from here
‘Cross the wide ocean… [let go the tear]

The Crimson Maple Leaf

A sing-along song tribute for Canada Day and National Flag Day (February 15th). Featured on Canada Day on several radio networks, and included with several other Songs for Canada project works on Radio CFMU Hamilton, ON. Video footage of this performed live can be found on YouTube.

See the boats on the Bay of Fundy waiting for the crimson tide
Out on the frothy sea crest, they will ride.
In the waters of Queen Charlotte where the halibut boats all glide
See the Maple Leaf that’s flying off the side!
On the sun-soaked plains of Saskatchewan see the dancers bring the rain
While the children play, the story is told again.
In the north you’ll find the Caribou Line, where the villagers know your name
Over Franklin’s bones it’s the Crimson Leaf again.
See her flutter in the north wind’s fury, in the steam of summer’s rain
From sea, to sea, to sea…she flies the main
From around the world we’ve gathered, sharin’ one belief
Sing our song of [the Crimson Maple Leaf] From Tecumseh’s brave warriors, to the flyers at Amiens
To the blood on the faraway Dieppe shores
There’s Bethune, and Banting, Terry Fox and Pearson’s Corps,
And the list can go on forevermore.
To this land we were born or the legacy that we pledge
She’s given us the best that there can be.
Il c’est bienvenue au St. Laurent to the Fraser River’s rage
In the Klondike or in St. Anthony

Tail Gunner’s Dream

(2008*) Another tribute to Vern Flatekval and the men of WW2 Bomber Command. The Canadian Bomber Command Museum (Nanton, Alberta) is developing this song into student programs and activities.

Walk the runway line, terror in your soul
Take a three-bar climb, find the turret hole.
Thirteenth night, our squadron must fly
From total darkness- to the torchlit German sky.
Ringing in your ears, words the Chaplin pray
Lord of heaven steer, keep the flak away.
Two more gone, one on either side
Spotlight found- death a demon’s ride.
Open bay, let the doom scream play
Hear the roar, make the corporal pay.
Nightmare, women and children below
Gunner’s dream, no more missions to go.
Enemy night fighter, radar guidance plan
[Heather’s locket, tightly in my hand].

Hong Kong Christmas

Many Canadians are not aware of the small contingent of Commonwealth troops (which was anchored by two regiments of Canadians) who bravely and against all odds held off the massive Japanese onslaught (60 000 ground troops plus air and naval bombardment)of Hong Kong in December, 1941. The attack coincided with the attack on Pearl Harbour. These brave men suffered terrible losses (more than 200 killed, hundreds injured), but held off the Imperial Japanese for more than two weeks, until Christmas Day… despite knowing there was no chance of escape or reinforcements. Even more perished from emaciation in horrific Japanese prison and labour camps afterward. John was honoured to perform this tribute song in Ottawa in 2006 for the 65th anniversary Convention of the HKVCA, who are the few that remain. John was given audience with GG Adrian Clarkson, whose family was able to escape Hong Kong only because of these brave defenders.

Our little garrison, ten thousand strong, guarded the sea-port town of Hong Kong
December eighth, 1941, we heard the news Pearl Harbour had gone
And down came the Imperial Japanese.
Messages came, Shang Hai over-run, War in the Pacific, the headlines began
Send reinforcements, soon as you please, ‘cause we won’t go down on our knees, to the imperial Japanese.
[And the Sergeant cried: “Give ‘em some heroes, Boys!!] While the Mitsubishis roared overhead, straefing our A-A gunnerboys
We threw back to them everything we had, but our weapons seemed like little toys.
We trenched as their troops came up on the shore, we had a few tricks up our sleeve
In the forward positions our lads had dug down sayin’ we won’t go on our knees
To the Imperial Japanese.
As the days went by we fought to hold ground, Johnny O. and the ‘Peg Grenadiers
Hand to hand in the hills we were found, wrestling through hopes and our fears
Two weeks went by, two weeks we held, waiting for help to arrive
Spending our honour with blood on the ground, hundreds of friends gave their lives
Sayin’ we won’t go on our knees, to the Imperial Japanese

Dieppe (Unplugged)

(2002, then re-recorded as an acoustic version 2004*) Canada’s most tragic day occurred August 19, 1942 on the beaches of Dieppe, France. The song has been chosen for use by Alberta and Ontario School boards for curriculum. The Royal Canadian Legion website makes the song available for ceremony and Remembrance Day use.

We rode on a wave to Dieppe that day] There was Frenchy, Mac, and me, in our proud black berets.
Canadian commandos, five thousand strong were we
So glad to be delivering liberty, but the Germans were there on the shore
Dave Mack ran a gamut, way out in front of the boys
We just couldn’t see through the smoke, fire and noise
we knew he could run, but soft sand, his pack and his gun
In a blinding flash on the shore-cry no more
Frenchy led the way past the gun caves we could see
With a fine eye and luck, he knocked out two or three
The boys heard armour rollin’, closer than they wanted to be
It seemed so sudden for Frenchy- pousser de cries.
With as many dead as wounded, pinned down we can’t break free
I just want to go back to my Saskatoon prairie
They’re picking us off like flies, I can’t take it no more
Dear Lord, please sail us off this shore
One thousand me lay dyin’, dear Lord-cry no more.

O Canada (Anthem)

O Canada, our home and native land
True patriot love, in all our sons command
Car ton bras se porter le payee
Il se porter la croix
Ton histoire et une et peu payeux
De plus brilliants exploits
God keep our land, glorious and free
[O Canada we stand on guard for thee]

O Canada (Instr.)
The Sons of Canada

A song that has been chosen and is available on the website of the National Command of the Royal Canadian Legion, for military ceremonies, tributes, services, Remembrance Day, etc.

They were the sons of Canada They heard the call for to obey
They heard the call for souls away
They were the ones from old St. John’s
Up from the ‘Peg, South Saskatchewan
Trois Rivieres, and Nipigon, on memory’s wall
Right under the guns.
They fell freeing France, they stood in Hong Kong
They stand for peace, and getting along
They stand for hope, in the darkness gone long
They stand on guard, true north free and strong.

Queen of the Hurricanes

A song dedication to the women’s rights movement, and the heroic aviation engineer Elsie MacGill, who was responsible for the Canadian production of Hurricane fighter planes. In charge of the full operation at the plant, involving hundreds of female workers, they would produce 1490 of these dynamic, magnificently tuned aircraft. Elsie’s Hurricanes convincingly turn the tide in the allies favour in the do or die Battle of Britain in 1941. The song was written in coordination with Fort Edmonton staff to be presented at events utilizing women interpreters in role-plays as suffragettes. The song had its live debut at John’s performance at Edmonton’s Works Festival on June 30th.

Within the greatest peril the earth has ever seen
There stood a titan woman like none before had been
Strong and looking skyward, fightin’ polio and pain,
Canada’s Elsie-e MacGill…[ she’s bakin’ up Hurricanes][ bakin’ up hurricanes].
Soon Goering’s mighty squadrons were pummeling Britain’s lair
But for brave and daring pilots of the Hurricane and Spitfire
We’ve got to knock those bombers down today from e’er they fly
Call Elsie to the rescue, [bakin’ Hurricanes, not pies][knock those bombers from the skies].

Chorus 1: Hey, hey,…way up high…gotta knock those bombers from the sky
She was the finest engineer an airplane ever knew
She’d build a thousand Hurricanes before she was through
And send ‘em o’er the ocean protecting Britain’s soil
With every woman’s hands to work, and [blood and sweat and toil][grease and fumes and oil].
Those Hurricanes flew fast and true and turned upon a wire
They buzzed and whacked the Messerschmidts with lead and wrath and fire
When it was o’er, old Goering knew full well that he was done
Nevermore o’er Britain’s shores [would Hitler’s pilots run][ya’ Goering’s boys were “toast”].
Chorus 2: Hey, hey,…way up high…Elsie’s hurricanes [knocked those bombers from the skies] So what e’er you do take heed my friend and never ye’ forget
When the chips are down and the end seems near, no you ain’t finished yet
Just make a call to the women’s hall, and there we’ll find a way,
To keep us all from Satan’s wall, for its [Elsie saves the day][Queen o’ th’ Hurricanes] Coda: Hey, hey,…Queen o’ th’ Hurricanes, through blizzard, snow, and rain, Queen o’ th’ Hurricanes, she’s bakin’ those hurricanes.

Riel: New Version

(1999), * Upgraded and edited for re-recording 2013, including Francophone content), The 1885 Riel Rebellion is still stirring the hearts of Canadians. Told with historic detail of names, places, and events, the song is used for lyric study and listening activities in the 2006 Alberta Social Studies grade seven teachers resource. *Important recent update: This song was also a main-stage headline media selection for “Back to Batoche 2013”, 48th annual festival (Saskatchewan), for which John was chosen as a feature performer.

We arrived near Batoche on that day, with chains to take Riel away.
Our orders from Middleton were clear: {“Rout the Metis . . . right here!”}
The Saskatchewan River, with a steam paddle-wheeler, we sailed.
With our cannons and horses, provisions and tack,
And a fine eight hundred, we’d surely prevail.
And tose men of Dumont were a ragged brigade,
“Dieu ne les laisserait pas perdre!” Riel said, {and they stayed }
With our scarlet and polish, we smelled of the English,
We could see them from miles away.
And in trenches the Metis started to pray . . . they started to pray!
We had the finest of rifles and ammo’ in our revelry.
With two guns made by Gatling, let loose! The devil to see!
And the two hundred Metis had muskets for shot,
And for three remarkable days, they fought, and they fell . . .they fought and they fell.
“Stop the madness! Stop killing! Stop in God’s name!”
{We could hear the priest yell} . . .
Speaking: Riel escaped, but gave himself up after 3 days. I was first up to the
man…Riel looked my soul right through.
He said “Dieu, pardonnez les, il ne savent pas, ce qu’il font!”
<Oh Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they do!>
I squirmed and started shaking… Riel looked me in the eye,
And I knew deep down in my soul that this brave man. . . was doomed to die.
{And in chains we took Riel away
and the little church rang its bell.
And dozens of men lay dead on the ground,
With a tale they never could tell.}
With a tale they never could tell!
Near the little church on La Belle Prairie . . .