Who was Ge­orge Al­fred Beck­ett?


I dropped off some books at a used book­store. The owner promised to pay me, but not right then. “Come back later,” he said. I did, but re­ceived noth­ing. I could have taken back my books, but I tend to trust peo­ple un­til that trust is bro­ken. So I pa­tiently waited for a few dol­lars. One day, he said, “ Take an arm­load of what­ever I got on my shelves.” I didn’t need to be told twice.

Among what I brought home was an 80-page, hand­writ­ten jour­nal, the di­men­sions of a legal size folder. I have de­rived hours of plea­sure from read­ing what can only be de­scribed as a col­lec­tion of “this ‘n that.”

There are po­ems ( A Prayer of a Horse), sto­ries (House Hunt­ing in Ire­land), and hymns (Yield Not to Temp­ta­tion). For some rea­son, the year 1936 fig­ures promi­nently, with lists of deaths, events, weather, dis­as­ters and fa­tal­i­ties. There are even in­struc­tions show­ing how “ Joyce’s sweater” and nine-year old “Car­son’s socks” were knit.

I of­ten won­der about the orig­i­nal owner of the jour­nal. Many ques­tions arise in my mind: Why did he (or was it she?) main­tain a jour­nal? What was his age in 1936? Where did he live? Pud­desters and Taylors are men­tioned — do these names in­di­cate a Cupids con­nec­tion? I may never know the an­swers to my ques­tions.

One poem in par­tic­u­lar cap­tures my un­di­vided at­ten­tion when­ever I read it. There is no ti­tle, but it was ev­i­dently writ­ten by Ge­orge Al­fred Beck- ett. Ac­tu­ally, it’s his story, and a sad one it is … Ge­orge Al­fred Beck­ett is my name as you may un­der­stand Brought up by hon­est par­ents I be­long to New­found­land In a pleas­ant lit­tle vil­lage so beau­ti­ful and grand Near the At­lantic Ocean, a place called Old Per­li­can My par­ents reared me ten­derly the truth I will make known And good ad­vice they gave to me when I was leav­ing home My mother prayed for my re­turn as she had done be­fore As I left home that day to roam far from my na­tive shore To the coal­fields of Cape Bre­ton my course I then did stray And for to get em­ploy­ment I landed in Glace Bay But lit­tle did my par­ents think when they bid me good-bye This aw­ful crime I would com­mit and be con­demned to die One evening late last au­tumn as you may un­der­stand To take me out on Tower Road I en­gaged a taxi man He lit­tle thought as we rode on I had an iron bar These dread­ful wounds for to con­flict and rob him in his car From thence I made a quick es­cape to get home was my plan I left Glace Bay and sailed away back home to New­found­land It was ‘bout three weeks later the po­lice were on my trail Ar­rested me for mur­der and brought me to St. John’s jail From there back to Cape Bre­ton my trial for to stand And never no more to see again my own dear na­tive land The jury found me guilty the judge made this re­ply On the thir­ti­eth day of April for this mur­der you must die Here’s to my aged par­ents I now must bid adieu My sis­ters and my brothers and like­wise my chil­dren too My not for­get­ting my dear wife wher- ever she may be So lov­ing kind and gen­tle for the fault was all with me I wish to thank all my dear friends who were so kind to me My cler­gy­men and lawyers who tried to set me free Like­wise the war­den of the jail who courage to me gave Long may he live to en­joy his health when I am in my grave My life is al­most to an end my days are but a few Take my ad­vice and live and avoid those trou­bles too And never mur­der any­one no mat­ter what you do Or like me you’ll die on the gal­lows at the age of forty two Now to con­clude and fin­ish from this world I must de­part For the mur­der of Nick Marthos I’m sorry to the heart And let all men take warn­ing to heed to what I say May the Lord have mercy upon my soul when I do pass away

On De­cem­ber 31, 1930, the news­pa­per, Bay Roberts Guardian, de­scribed the in­ci­dent re­lated in this song: “ Ge­orge Al­fred Beck­ett had made a full and com­plete con­fes­sion to the mur­der of Ni­cholas Marthos, Glace Bay taxi driver, on Sept. 22nd. Beck­ett was ar­rested sev­eral weeks ago at his fa­ther’s home in Old Per­li­can and ex­tra­dited to Glace Bay.”

Still, I would like to know more about Ge­orge Al­fred Beck­ett.


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