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Book Review
Lamps Forever Lit – A Memorial to Kirkland Lake Area Miners

A Haunting Litany of Death in the Deep
By Naomi Lakritz
The Calgary Herald
May 5, 2001

Eerier than any ghost story, Lamps Forever Lit will haunt you in those moments of dark reverie when you think of the dead, of the countless ordinary folks who lived, loved and worked in another time, people whose memory is lost to all but a handful of their descendants.

Bernie Jaworsky has seen to it that these 310 Ontario miners, killed in some of the most ghastly accidents imaginable, will not suffer anonymity. Lamps Forever Lit is the work of Calgary – based Cambria Publishing, a company formed by photographer Lawrence Chrismas, whose own work includes the remarkable book, Alberta Miners – A Tribute.

Jaworsky’s new book is a series of mini-biographies of the miners and he has spared no pains researching them. He lovingly furnishes the tiniest details wherever he can, even if it’s only the name of a sister in Toronto or the priest who presided at the funeral.

The effect of such minutiae is profoundly moving. To describe Lamps Forever Lit as just a collection of obituaries would be unjust. To read it is to attend a wake, where the sweet stirring strains of Amazing Grace are heard through the vignettes of these lives, even as we recoil in horror at the descriptions of the men’s final , brutal moments.

And what a litany of terrible ways to die – falling down mine shafts, being crushed by tons of rock, suffocating in mountains of sand, blown up in dynamiting accidents, impaled on steel or horribly mangled in machinery.

“…underground there is constant darkness. What you usually see is what your lamp reveals. Dangers from the side, above or below, are as a consequence unknown to you,” Jaworsky writes.

Murdoch Lloyd, the first man to die in one of the areas mines, was scalded with hot water when a tube blew out on a boiler he was repairing in the summer of 1914. In October 1922, Kent Englehutt fell lout of a bucket, plunged 300 feet down a shaft and landed in 200 feet of water at the bottom. Shattering his skull and most of the rest of his bones. The smashed body of this 38-year-old father of two had to be retrieved with grappling hooks.

Henry Melong’s new boots made him slip and he fell backwards onto some machinery, dying with his head bumping on the hub of a revolving wheel. Jaworsky has reproduced Melong’s photo from a tiny one the miner’s grandsons found on a cufflink.

And so it goes, year after year, right up until the last death, that of Robert Owens, 34, a “free spirit” pictured holding up a four–leaf clover, who was killed in 1996 when the tram he was driving fell through a hole in a tunnel. “Hard rock, steel and blasting powder are not considerate of soft flesh,” Jaworsky says. “ Death… is gruesome, lonely, painful, bloody or suffocating. Death in a mine is not gentle.”

Many of the men were eastern European or Scandinavian immigrants working to bring families over. Their grainy headstone photos dot the pages of the book along with snapshots of children soon to be fatherless, sports teams that would lose a player to some horrendous underground accident, and even a Polish Christmas party where the miner playing Santa Claus was destined to die six months later, his face blown to bits by a freak explosion.

Jaworsky has sagely refrained from intruding on the dead. He does not comment on their stories beyond offering the bare minimum of necessary historical information on Kirkland Lake gold mining. In the early days, he writes, production was the sole concern: “As one miner left in a stretcher, another was hired at the front gate to take his place.”

Jaworsky makes us mourn for men we never knew. What greater triumph for a writer than to know he has moved the reader to share his deepest sorrow and highest respect for those who, in the words of miner S. Mahovlich: “during their life they dig their grave / Passing their entire life in darkness.”


CALGARY, ALBERTA MARCH 28, 2001-Cambria Publishing released today a new book titled Lamps Forever Lit~A Memorial to Kirkland Lake Area Miners written by Bernie Jaworsky.

Moving, thought-provoking, harrowing, heroic: The stories told in Lamps Forever Lit ~ A Memorial to Kirkland Lake Area Miners pay great homage to the men who died this past century in the Kirkland Lake-area gold mines of Ontario. Written by retired schoolteacher and long-time Northern Ontario resident Bernie Jaworsky, this factual yet compassionate history recalls the lives and deaths of 310 Canadian miners. Many of their names are engraved for posterity on the Kirkland Lake Miners' Memorial. But until the release of this book little was know about these miners, they were just names on a monument.

Thoroughly researched an amply illustrated with photographs, artwork and maps Lamps Forever Lit is an important addition to the cumulative history of mining in Canada. It describes the geological conditions faced and overcome by the miners, the early isolation of northern mining towns, the melting pot of nationalities and the strong solidarity between miners. Additionally it reveals the magnetism of mining, the strength of family and specific acts of courage by comrades in the face of tragedy.

Previous books by the publisher of Cambria Publishing, Lawrence Chrismas, looked at the positive side of mining. Although Jaworsky's book deals with tragic events and fatalities, the untold stories of these mining men deserved publishing in book form. According to Chrismas "when I first read a draft of Jaworsky's book I was knocked over by the compelling factual stories. Six months later they are still in my memory." Two previous books (Alberta Miners and CoalDust Grins) by Cambria Publishing have won major book awards.

Lamps Forever Lit contains 256 pages with stories of 310 individual miners accompanied by 160 duotone photographs, maps and drawings.

Author signs deal to publish mining book

by Walter Franczyk,
The Gazette,
Kirkland Lake Ontario
November 17, 2000

DOBIE, ONTARIO - Bernie Jaworksy is enjoying a double dose of good news. The retired high school teacher has received a $10 000 donation to help publish his book about men who died in Kirkland Lake area mines. And he's finalized a contract with Cambria Publishing of Calgary to publish the work this winter.

"I'm very happy," said Mr. Jaworksy who has been researching and writing the book Lamps Forever Lit - A Memorial to Kirkland Lake Area Miners for the past four years.

It chronicles the lives and deaths of 309 men who perished while mining in this region.

"The stories were there they just had to be put into one book," he said.

Mr. Jaworksy has been soliciting sponsorships from local businesses, unions and other organizations to help offset printing costs and other expenses. He expects contributions to reach $26 000.

The largest single donation to date has come from the United Steel Workers of America District 6 which has contributed $10 000 for the project. The United Steel Workers Canadian National Office has pledged another $10 000.

"If all the sponsors come through it's going to be a hard cover book. It will be a good quality book," Mr. Jaworksy said. The volume will sell for $29.95.

The first-time author met with his publisher Lawrence Chrismas over three days last week and signed a contract. A geologist and professional photographer, Mr Chrismas has published two of his own award-winning books about mining.

The local author had handed his manuscript and photographs over to Cambria's publisher, editors and designers who will shape it into a finished product.

"It was sad yesterday. I let my book go, just like sending my son off to university," Mr. Jaworksy said. "It's been an interesting life experience."

For further information contact:

  Cambria Publishing
  Calgary, Alberta
  403 270 3547
  email: publisher@cambriapublishing.com

There are currently about 300 pages and 235 photographs located in 20 galleries on the new Cambria Publishing/CoalDust Grins site. These photographs include coal and other types of miners, women of mining, musicians portraits and a few selected landscapes. We are continuing to add additional photographs and replace some that are getting kind of yellow. :-)
We have tried to provide you, the viewer, with photographs and stories to enjoy rather than just trying to sell books, CDs and other items. However, our product slate will continue to grow in the future with some CoalDust Grins Memorabilia and Collectors Items coming soon.
In the future there will also be a growing selection of photographs relating to the oil and gas industry, the Fraser River, musicians and dogs.

If you know of any product(s) or service(s) that might be suitable for inclusion into our bookstore page, please contact us.
Additionally, we hope to be building a substantial section of Links. If you are interested in suggesting a link for the Links page, click here.
(Submitted links, products and services are subject to approval by Cambria Publishing)

For more Cambria Publishing and CoalDust
Grins news and information
click here.

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