Cape Breton in the early 1920s was rocked by industrial warfare. The declining international market for coal and steel meant many miners and steelworkers lost their jobs, and those who retained their positions faced wage cuts and a deteriorating work environment. Such conditions sparked numerous violent confrontations, including a five-month stand-off between the British Empire Steel Corporation (BESCO) police and coalminers. The gains Cape Breton workers made came at a cost.

J.S. Woodsworth writing about the imprisonment of one of the leaders of the BESCO strike.
Reading from 'Besco,' The 
Canadian Forum, vol. IV, no.42 (March 1924).

Poem by two Grade 8 girls Sydney Post, 06/18/1925

'Twas on a Thursday morning,
And all was going well,
Until the Besco policemen
Marched in and raised up Hell.

All mounted on pit horses,
With billies at their sides.
Into the town of Waterford
These Besco men did ride.

They marched toward the power plant
Where fires were all knocked down,
Where lights and water were shut off,
And left a gloomy town.

But when the miners heard of this,
To vengeance they gave vent;
And straight toward the power plant
Twelve hundred men were sent.

And ere the day had ended,
It was a sad affair,
For one poor fellow-worker
Was shot while standing there.

Some injured here, some injured there,
A broken leg or arm.
These poor police were carried home
After doing so much harm.

I guess 'twill be a long, long time
Before these cops will dare
To ride the streets of Waterford
And look at men and sneer.

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