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Lonely Heroes: Abroad

by John Spearn

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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.
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]
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
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].
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
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, 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]
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.
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.
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 . . .


released August 18, 2014


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John Spearn Edmonton, Alberta

You’ll instantly catch these deep influences threaded through John’s fine vocals, lyrics, and rootsy, guitar-mastered songwriting works. This is pure Canadiana: forgotten but deserving heroes, the humility in our international image, and a superb range of tender ballads through to raw, foot-stompin’ stories that need to be told. ... more

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