Hamlet Wreck, The
DESCRIPTION: "See the women and children going on the train, Fare-you-well, my husband, if I never see you again." The train runs late, and collides with a local (?). The rest of the song amplifies the repeated line, "So many have lost their lives"
EARLIEST DATE: 1929 (Durham Morning Herald)
KEYWORDS: train wreck death disaster
July 27, 1911 - The Hamlet Wreck
FOUND IN: US(SE)
REFERENCES (5 citations):
BrownII 290, "The Hamlet Wreck" (1 text)
BrownSchinhanIV 290, "The Hamlet Wreck" (1 excerpt, 1 tune)
Lyle-Scalded, pp. 77-82, "The Hamlet Wreck" (1 text, 1 tune)
Cohen-AFS1, pp. 238-239, "The Hamlet Wreck" (1 text)
Cohen-LSRail, p. 273, "The Hamlet Wreck" (notes only)
NOTES: The notes in Brown say that the passenger train involved in this wreck was a special carrying some 900 members of St. Joseph's African Methodist Episcopal Church on an annual outing (from Durham to Charlotte). The collision occurred near the town of Hamlet, and at least 8 people killed and 88 injured.
The piece apparently was first printed as a broadside credited to Franklin Williams and William Firkins, but Brown left a note expressing strong doubts about the attribution. I must say, though, it looks like a composed song to me -- and not one which circulated much in oral tradition. Had it been created orally, there would have been more personal stories included.
On the other hand, Lyle, p. 82, suggests "In short, 'The Hamlet Wreck' is more like black American music than white, and the only 'black' wreck song we have." This is not precisely true -- Laws explicitly defined "Joseph Mica (Mikel) (The Wreck of the Six-Wheel Driver) (Been on the Choly So Long)" [Laws I16] as being of "Negro" origin -- but certainly "The Hamlet Wreck" is rare in its concentration on a Black disaster tale. - RBW
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