This article is a little longer than most of my articles but it because the man I interviewed has lead quite a diverse life traveling from Glace Bay to China and working places in between but alas this story begins with humble beginnings. Jude Kelly was born in the Hub. Jude’s father moved his family from a company house to one he built at Churchill Centre, which was across from St. John’s Church. Many fond memories were had there playing hockey and baseball with the other kids in the neighborhood, incidentally, he won the most valuable team-player trophy for the one year he played for “The New Aberdeen Fence Busters” (Little-bigger-league) in Glace Bay.
Jude attended St. John’s School; he left Glace Bay at sixteen and moved to Toronto where he found a job working in a Sheet Metal Shop. After a year of homesickness, however, he moved back home and was hired-on at #26 Colliery as a “Pit Pony driver” in 1954/55 at seventeen. This was his first time underground, which he recalls as being a little unnerving, “it was dark and damp,” he said, when remembering his first time down in the mine.
When most people think of Jude, they think of singer with The Men of the Deeps but don’t necessarily know about his wide and varied careers in his life and the places that they took him. So let us begin when #26 colliery closed and Jude was laid off. He chose to take a Sheet Metal course at the Point Edward Training Centre and obtained a Sheet Metal job for Fred Pierce in Sydney until he became ill from lead poisoning. After a brief recovery period, he went back into the mine, this time at #20 colliery.
It was, however, on a religious retreat that Jude found a calling toward monastic life; following his heart, he entered a monastery in New York State. He lived the life of a Religious Brother, for a period of nine years, in a monastery, at Garrison New York. It was there, by correspondence, that he earned his high school diploma; he also studied and wrote the exams and obtained a high school diploma from The University of The State Of New York. He also completed a five-year program of studies in Moral and Dogmatic theology, Psychology, Scripture, Catechetics and some Philosophy. This was all while carrying out his normal daily activities at the Monastery of The Friars of the Atonement (Graymoor) which was located 45 miles north of New York City, on top of a mountain, overlooking the Hudson River.
Jude was also trained as a cobbler, barber, welder and catechist and attended many advanced training courses in automotive and welding techniques at General Motors Training Centre and the Eutectic Alloy Welding School respectively. While at Graymoor, one of his favorite activities was to work as a cobbler in the shoe repair shop where he made sandals for the Friars and repaired shoes for men who were “down on their luck” who came to Graymoor for help to get back into the mainstream of society. After completing the five-year Juniorate program he was assigned to study Portuguese and to work as a missionary in Brazil, which also entailed teaching catechetic and training altar servers. He lived in Brazil for one year.
When he moved back home, he obtained a Barber’s license in Halifax, and opened a Barbershop and beauty salon at the corner of Wallace Road and Connaught Avenue, in Glace Bay, called “Jude’s Barbershop and Beauty Salon,” which he ran for three years but that is not the end of the story folks, I forgot to mention that he was a member of the Nova Scotia Barber’s Association and is an industrial electrical journeyman. After a few years however he decided that Barbering was not for him and he sold the shop. It continued to be a beauty salon for a number of years by the new owner and later moved from the property and used as a work-shed.
Following his barbering experience Jude returned to work in the coal mining industry as a first class mining electrician, in #12, #26 and Lingan mines, until 1980. In 1980 he accepted the position as an Electrical/ Mechanical and Mines Safety Inspector for the Province of Nova Scotia. While working in #26, Jude took advantage of courses offered at the College of Cape Breton and he received his Mine examiner, Mine Overman, Mine Underground Manager, Mine Manager and Mine Rescue certification. Jude’s comes from a legacy of mine workers as his father, grandfather and six brothers also worked in the mines. He married his wife, Elaine (Fraser) in 1969 and they reared two children together. What else did I forget to mention… oh and he was on the Board of Directors of the Coady Credit Union while working at #26 mine.
Jude Kelly has been singing throughout his life in church choirs. He sang Gregorian Chants when he was at the monastery. He auditioned and was accepted by “the Men of the Deeps” in 1974, and has travelled to many towns and cities across North America and even to China and Kosovo. In 1976, they were the first foreign group to enter China since the Communists took control of the country.
His range is First Tenor and is a soloist. His most famous song, sung for the National Film Board of Canada, was “Coal by the Sea.” It was reflecting on returning to work in the coalmines that prompted him to write a song called, “A Miner’s Son’s Destiny,” which you can read following this column. In their songs “The Men of The Deeps” sing about their work and their culture with a proud, proud, past that will never die as it lives on in their songs. Who knew someone with Jude Kelly’s background lived in Glace Bay? He is very much what you would call a man of all trades. I don’t know about being master of none because he seemed to have mastered life quite well. Never missing a beat that life has had to offer. Don’t forget that you can pick up the latest Men of the Deeps recordings out as it is their 50th Anniversary and also their one and only Christmas CD; a great gift idea for anybody on your list.
The following link is a Poem by Jude Kelly:
The following link is a song by Jude Kelly: