Beneath Springhill

The Maurice Ruddick Story

By (author) Beau Dixon
Categories: Drama
Publisher: J. Gordon Shillingford Publishing
Paperback : 9781927922767, 72 pages, April 2021



A shadowy figure is crouched stage left. He is cold and shivering. Cramped. It is dark. There is the sound of cracked wood, bending metal. It is MAURICE Ruddick. Eight days after the 'bump'.

MAURICE: (In the dark.) Oh dear Lord is there anyone there?/

Anyone to hear this miner's prayer?/ Trapped underground when the great Bump roared/ In the coal black dark can you hear me Lord?

Lights come up on a figure crouched in the corner. He continues to sing, but he's coughing and feeling weaker.

Trapped in the dark two miles underground. Two miles below the good folk of Springhill town. Oh dear Lord hear this miner's prayer. Is there anyone there. Is there anyone there? Please God. Help me. Say this isn't the end. Tell me I'll see my wife. My kids. My freedom....Who's there?

Music swells. Fade into CBC theme music.

REPORTER: This is Jack McNeil coming to you live on this cold day of October 23rd, 1958 in Springhill, Nova Scotia. News has just come in that an earth tremor has caused a 'bump' in North America's largest coal mine, The Cumberland No.2. It is now reported that one hundred and seventy four men are trapped thousands of feet below the earth's surface. It is hard to say how many are dead and how many are alive. Even though this small community is used to catastrophic events, the mining disaster of 1938, the mining disaster of '56...

(He becomes very excited.) but this is the largest disaster ever. As we keep you posted on the current events, we ask that you hope and pray for the family and friends who are waiting anxiously for the outcome of their husbands, their brothers, their fathers, their sons. This is Jack McNeil, CBC News, Springhill, Nova Scotia.


Springhill, Nova Scotia. Lights up on centre stage. We see MAURICE. Two years after the 'bump'.

MAURICE: Good day to you. I'm Maurice. Maurice Ruddick. I'm forty six years old, and I'm an African Canadian living in Springhill, Nova Scotia with my wife and twelve children. Some people call me 'the singing miner' (Sings.)

Way way down digging down in the deep/

I'm a coal diggin' Daddy diggin' coal for my keep/

Filling box after box/ That's how I earn my pay/

It's down underground I sing my blues away.

Other folks call me a mulatto. Person of mixed race. Some people call me a nigger. But, I prefer you just call me Maurice. Ever since I could remember I wanted to be a musician. I would be the kid at church waiting for the choir hymns to be called out. I knew them all by heart.

(Plays a guitar lick.)

I wanted to sing under the big, bright lights. But, when you have a wife and twelve kids to feed, well sometimes you have to put those dreams aside. So I became a coal miner. That's what you did in Springhill. You were a coal miner. That's what my father did and his father before him. I was born in the town of Joggins, twenty-eight miles outside Springhill. On my days off, if you didn't see me wrestling with one of my kids, you could find me hiding in my backroom singing and writing songs on my trusty guitar. Some nights, if the night was just right, I'd tip toe to my little one's bedroom and sing them to sleep.

(Sings.) Go to sleep Colleen, Sylvia and Valerie/

Close your eyes Alder, Ellen and Dean/

Sweet dreams, Chickie, Revere and little Leah/

Catch the train to dreamland, Jesse and Iris/

And don't forget to bring along our brand new little baby/ Sweet little sister darling Katrina.


Beneath Springhill is the incredible story of Maurice Ruddick, "the singing miner," an African-Canadian who survived nine days underground during the historic Springhill mining disaster of 1958. This multi-award-winning chamber musical recalls the events during the disaster, the effect it had on Ruddick's family, and the racial tensions in the town of Springhill. The play is a celebration of hope, courage and community. Music by Susan Newman and Lyrics by Rob Fortin.


"This is what theatre is about." (

"A celebration of the human spirit..." (Calgary Sun)