This poem has a history, as it turns out. Someone who found the poem on this site had a little story to tell regarding the poem. With his kind permission, I've transcribed it here.
I've a thing or two to tell ya pard that I think you ought to know,
When we were young and handsome, had some ten years in the game,
Well the blasting had been easy, it was running out like sand.
Now there's men can watch their partners die, not throw their lives away.
That day Sully's pail was buried, he ate from Riley's pail in tears.
COMMENTARY FROM IAN ARCHER:
I found your page whilst doing a search on "Sully's Pail". I find the story as evocative and touching as you do. I wanted to remind myself of the words. It was recorded by Tom Paxton on his third album "Ain't that news?" as "Sully's Pail". I don't have the album to hand so I don't know to whom he attributed the words. Writing from memory, the part that is missing from your script is:
1: I've a thing or two to tell ya pard that I think you ought to know,
2: About a rusty bucket Sully carries down below.
3: You're not the first one, stranger, who laughed at Sully's pail.
4: You're the only one who's laughing now, the rest have heard this tale.
5: When we were young and handsome, had some ten years in the game,
6: Old Sull he had a partner, and Jim Riley was his name.
7: They had knocked about together, Bingham Butte and Coeur d'Alleyne,
8: And they'd brawled in every bar room from Ely to Fort McLean.
9: Now 'twas me and old Ted Johnson, sure you'll not remember him,
10: We were working at the Raris, had a stope with Sull and Jim.
11: The four of us together, we were working side by side.
12: That's how come I chanced to be there on the night Jim Riley died.
Lines 7-10 inclusive. I don't know the geography but could "Coeur d'Alleyne" (which is how it sounds) be "Heart of Allegheny". Alleyne just happens to be my wife's middle name.
WEBMASTER'S NOTE: Coeur d'Alleyne is a reservation up in Idaho.
My friend Guntram writes:
Thanks to Valerie at [http://www.mydfz.com/Paxton/welcome.htm], who runs a Tom Paxton page there "since no one else does", my attention was directed to a recent re-edition of two of Tom's albums on one CD with Sully's Pail on "Ain't That News" - news indeed, and a surprise. This song is an outlier since it is the only a capella one and certainly not a hit. But: it is sung in the style of those old Irish folk songs which traditionally used to have no accompaniment, and the way Tom is singing could well be the way a true miner would have sung the song in any bar room between Ely and Fort McLean. This makes Tom's singing about Sully very special to me, and, by the way, it is one of Tom's favorite ballads, as he says. Some info on its history is given on the album: based on a true story, the ballad was written by Dick Giddons whom Tom never met. According to the note on the album, Tom is still in search of Dick. (See Below)
"Anyone who knows him should have him contact me (Tom) so he can collect his royalties."
Apparently, Tom and Dick Gibbons did eventually meet, as related to me by Jeremiah in the following excerpt from a post on Maplepost, a Canadian folk music list: "At the time of recording, Tom had no contact with Gibbons, and included the request in the liner notes for anyone who knew the writer to get in touch so he could get him the royalties he had coming. I did have a chance to ask Tom about it when he did a concert for the (gone & lamented) Caledonia Folk Club a number of years back. I found out that the writer's name was in fact Gibbons, not Giddons as listed on the album; and yes, Tom eventually met Gibbons and sorted things out. I consider the song an extraordinarily well-crafted piece. Somehow, in spite of the fact that you'e told 2 or 3 times how it's going to end, it still hits you like a ton of bricks! Marvelous."