St. John's singer Ron Hynes paid an emotional tribute to colleagues, fans and total strangers who rallied for his health after he was diagnosed last summer with throat cancer.

"During my recent illness, it was a humbling experience not only to have my own province, but an entire country in my corner," said Hynes as he accepted a special achievement award in Halifax on Sunday night from the directors of the East Coast Musical Awards.

"It felt … unbelievable," he said, after a lengthy pause.

Hynes started treatment after cancer was found in his throat last July. His voice had a noticeably different tone as he delivered a sometimes emotional speech, in which he referred to the stage as "an altar" where he has "always felt blessed."

"I'm not ready to leave this altar just yet, but there is a small chance that I may have to," Hynes told a full house gathered for the top prizes in Atlantic Canadian music.

"So I want you all to say a small prayer that that does not happen. Sometime soon, I will get to stand in that cruel and revealing spotlight once again, and my heart truly longs for that," he said.

"I'm not ready to say goodbye, but I am ready to say goodnight."

Singer praises working men, women

Hynes is a living legend in his home province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and is well known among musicians for having written such songs as Sonny's Dream and Atlantic Blue.

During his speech, Hynes played down his reputation as a musical icon, and said others were deserving of recognition, including generations of Newfoundlanders who travelled far and wide for work, as well as the wives who often raised their families alone.

"How hard a job was that? That's hard work. That's iconic," said Hynes.

"These people are the ones who deserve awards, deserve accolades."