“Bill Dunbar”

Author: (Billy Lyle and) Dave Curtin ?
Earliest date: 1964 (Fowke); c. 1957 (recording, Emerson Woodcock)
Keywords: racing death drowning grief travel mourning lament animal horse children family wife friend landlord
Found in: Canada(Ont)


"Come all you sympathizers, I pray you lend an ear. It's of a drowning accident as you shall quicklie hear." Hotel manager Bill Dunbar, liked by all, attends a race. On his return, he and (Bob Cunningham) go through the ice and drown

Long description

Bill Dunbar, a kind hotel-keeper, and Bob Cunningham lose their way while returning from the races; they drive their team onto the ice, break through and are drowned; Bill throws his mitts onto the ice to show where they went in. Bill leaves a wife and child, and is sorely mourned; once a foreman for Mossom Boyd, he was known for bravery. Singer hopes to meet on a brighter shore "there to live in happiness and old acquaintance to renew"


One of Fowke's informants told her the song, widely known in the Peterborough area, was written in about 1900. Mossom Boyd, for whom Dunbar worked, came to Canada in 1834, died 1883; he was the first European to settle in the Sturgeon Lake region, and was successful in the lumber trade. - PJS

Historical references



  1. Fowke-Lumbering #40, "Bill Dunbar" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Roud #3677
  3. BI, FowL40