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India's burning shore

Tom Murphy & Minnie Murphy

India's burning shore / Tom Murphy & Minnie Murphy

India's burning shore, song (As I strayed beneath those lofty pines on India’s burning shore …) Also known as the “Irish Patriot,” this song tells the story of a man whose wife and child are killed when he refuses to fight for his landlord’s rebel army. He takes revenge by killing his landlord and thereafter must forever live in exile, though he dreams of returning to Ireland to be buried beside his wife.  The origins of this song are unknown; Robert B Waltz and David G Engle note that it is found predominantly along North America’s eastern seaboard. The song seems to have had some popularity in lumbering camps during the early 20th century.

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Lobster salad (Paddy Kelly's dream), recitation

John Joe English

Lobster salad (Paddy Kelly's dream), recitation / John Joe English

Lobster salad (Paddy Kelly's dream), recitation (Last Saturday night I was invited …) This comic recitation describes the queue to get into heaven. Each new arrival is assessed by Saint Peter and is rejected from heaven for a variety of reasons. The last person to approach Saint Peter, Paddy from Ireland, plays a trick on St Peter in order to get into heaven.  John Joe English was known throughout the Cape Shore for his skills in drama and in performing dialogues. This performance of “Lobster Salad” demonstrates the flexibility of his voice and his capacity to enact different characters.

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My boy Willie

John Joe English

My boy Willie / John Joe English

My boy Willie, song (The sailing trade is a weary life …) This English broadside ballad is also known as “The sailor boy” or “Sweet William.” It is widely anthologised and recorded, with variant versions transforming Willie from a sailor to a lumberjack. It recounts the pain of a woman who is left behind when a loved one goes to sea and dies far from home.  This song was among John Joe English’s favourite songs.

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The lovely Irish rose

Eta Nash

The lovely Irish rose / Eta Nash

The lovely Irish rose, song (A winding welard winds its way out to a lovely Irish home …) Composed by Fred Kearney of Carndonagh, Co Donegal, this song was available widely on commercial 78rpm records during the 1930s and ‘40s (McBride 1988:114–15). In more recent years, it was recorded by well-known Newfoundland singers Harry Hibbs (More Harry Hibbs, Arc Sound, 1968) and Eddie Coffey (Live at the Newfoundlander, Country Records, 1978).  Eta Nash learned “The lovely Irish rose” in order to sing it at a school concert.

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Me and me chum Johnny Riley

Frankie Nash

Me and me chum Johnny Riley / Frankie Nash

Me and me chum Johnny Riley, song  (One day as we went out for a walk …) Written by Newfoundland songwriter Johnny Burke (“The Bard of Prescott Street”), this song tells the story of two friends who share everything. While songs about a character named Reilly/Riley are popular in Ireland, England, and throughout North America, this song originates in Newfoundland (Partyka in Narváez 2006:11).

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The gambling man

Jack Mooney

The gambling man / Jack Mooney

The gambling man, song (I am a roaming gambler, I gamble down in town …) This American folk song is probably of British origin (Rosenbaum 2013:142). It tells the story of a man who likes to gamble and the woman who falls in love with him.  It was widely recorded by such popular commercial performers as the Everly Brothers, Bob Dylan, and Simon and Garfunkel, though perhaps the earliest recording was that by Kelly Harrel in 1925 under the title “Rovin’ Gambler” (Victor 20171-A). Jack Mooney’s version of “The gambling man,” though performed unaccompanied, closely resembles the version in the 1925 recording.

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Only a face in the firelight

 Petchie Nash & Frankie Nash

Only a face in the firelight / Petchie Nash & Frankie Nash

Only a face in the firelight, song (I was seated one night by the hearthstone ...) Written by American composer Charles Shackford, this song was recorded by tenor James McCool in 1904 (Victor 2732). This sentimental song describes someone dreaming of a deceased lover while slumbering by a fireside.

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Patrick Reilly

Emma Doyle

Patrick Reilly / Emma Doyle

Patrick Reilly, song (My name is Patrick Reilly and the truth I will make known …) This ballad relates the story of a certain Patrick Reilly, who plans to emigrate to America to seek his fortune. His sweetheart asks him not to leave, and then accuses him of attempted murder when he persists in his intent. Reilly is charged and sentenced to die. He never sees America.  Variants of this song exist throughout Newfoundland. For example, a version was published by Kenneth Peacock in Songs of the Newfoundland Outports 1 (1965:159–160). Another variant was collected by MacEdward Leach.

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The plains of Easter Snow

James Connors

The plains of Easter Snow / James Connors

The plains of Easter Snow, song (As I roved for recreation beneath the falling dew …) In this romantic broadside ballad, the protagonist falls in love with a beautiful woman. His proposal ultimately is turned down, and the woman departs. Song collector Jim Carroll suggests  a possible explanation for the title and origin of the song:  “ ‘Estersnowe is the name of a townland in Roscommon. Originally the place was known by its Gaelic name Diseart Nuadhan (St. Nuadha's Hermitage) but in the process of adaptation to the English language in Elizabethan times, it became known as Issertnowne. By the nineteenth century the people, when speaking English, called it Estersnowe and rationalised that strange name into Easter Snow. In County Antrim where there is a strong Scots influence, the song is known as Wester Snow.”

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The shores of Grand Lake

Frankie Nash

The shores of Grand Lake / Frankie Nash

The shores of Grand Lake, song (One night as I sat in my own cozy corner …) This labour song describes the practice of subcontracting (“subbing”) in the lumberwoods of Newfoundland. The lyrics protest against the poor pay and conditions endured by woodsmen, specifically mentioning the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company (“AND Company”) (Partyka in Narváez 2006:10).  This particular version seems to be a fusion of two related songs: its melody is that of “The track to Knob Lake” by Albert Roche (Roud Number 9811) and its lyrics closely resemble those of “Twin Lakes” (Roud Number 17693).

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Siúl a ghrá

Ellen Emma Power

Siúl a ghrá / Ellen Emma Power

Siúl a ghrá, song (Oh I'll go up in yonder hill …) Ellen Emma Power introduces this song as simply, “an Irish Song.” It tells the story of a woman whose lover has gone to France; she is left behind to wait for his unlikely return.  Though the Irish language had died out in Newfoundland by the early 20th century, certain words and phrases persist as evidence of the strong linkages between the two islands. In Ellen Emma Power’s performance, the pronunciation of the Irish words is phonetic only; the meanings of the words have been lost. 

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The true lovers' conversation

Henry Campbell

The true lovers' conversation / Henry Campbell

The true lovers' conversation, song (One pleasant evening as pinks and daisies, closed in their bosom a drop of dew …) This broadside ballad recounts an overheard conversation between two lovers. The woman questions the man’s fidelity and love. Eventually it is revealed that she fancies another who has wealth and fortune. The man rejects her and she retracts her statements, explaining that she was merely testing his love for her. In Shamrock, Rose and Thistle, song scholar Hugh Shields suggests that the text originates from an anonymous poet of Magheratimpany, Ballynahinch, Co Down (1981:155).  Henry Campbell learned this song from a woman named Kay Lynch—a nurse in Branch—who got it out of a songbook.

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