The road leading from Dominion to New Waterford, Cape Breton Regional Municipality, Trunk 28, has been ceremonially renamed William Davis Memorial Trail, in honour of the Cape Breton miner, and all those lost in Nova Scotia’s coal mines.
The new sign was unveiled today, June 11, as part of William Davis Miners’ Memorial Day.
Davis Day is a time to reflect on the culture of Nova Scotia’s coal mining communities and to honour the memory of those who died tragically while mining in the province. This year marks the 90th anniversary of the miner’s death.
“William Davis died standing up for his community and the rights of his fellow miners, and his sacrifice stands as an enduring symbol of worker’s rights,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Geoff MacLellan. “It is fitting that his name will mark this route, reminding us of an important part of the history of Cape Breton that should be preserved and passed on from one generation to the next.”
On June 11, 1925, striking coal miners in Cape Breton were pushed to desperation when the coal company cut off their access to water and electricity, including at local hospitals. In an attempt to have the services restored, the miners marched 16 kilometers from Glace Bay to the company’s facilities in New Waterford. Soon after reaching their destination, the company police began firing at the unarmed miners, killing 37-year-old William Davis and wounding others.
Davis’s death became a symbol of the determination and resolve of the miners in their struggles. At a later union convention, June 11 was declared Davis Day. The tradition of commemorating Davis Day has since evolved from memorializing the events of 1925 to remembering all miners who died in mine accidents.
Davis Day is marked by events across the province. Today, it also serves as a reminder of the need to keep workplace safety front and centre at all times.
“There are some dark stories in Nova Scotia’s history, and it is important that we learn from them and ensure they are not forgotten,” said Communities, Culture and Heritage Minister Tony Ince. “William Davis will always be remembered as a symbol of the resilience of Nova Scotia’s coal miners.”
Davis had a large family, was a skilled worker and was active in his union. Originally from England, he had worked previously in Springhill. His older brother Thomas died at the age of 14 in the Springhill disaster of 1891.
Coal and Grit, at the Nova Scotia Museum of Industry in Stellarton, tells the story of mining coal in Pictou County from its early beginnings up to and including the surface mines in operation in 2008. The exhibit includes the Westray Disaster of 1992, which killed 26 miners and is still remembered vividly by Nova Scotians.
For more information about Coal and Grit visit museumofindustry.novascotia.ca/what-see-do/coal-and-grit .
For more information about the traditions of Davis Day, visit the Nova Scotia Archives website at http://novascotia.ca/archives/virtual/meninmines/davis.asp .