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Untitled singles

Gerald Campbell, accordion

Untitled singles / Gerald Campbell, accordion

Three singles. Singles are a tune type that is specific to Newfoundland dance music. They are similar to an Irish polka, but played at a faster tempo and with a heavy accent at the beginning of each bar.

Georges Banks

Henry Campbell & Gerald Campbell

Georges Banks / Henry Campbell & Gerald Campbell

Georges Banks, song (Ye roving sons of Newfoundland, I hope you will draw near …) Georges Bank is a large plateau-shaped shoal off the coast of Massachusetts. It is part of a series of banks and shoals that extend along the edge of the North American continental shelf—the most northern of which are Newfoundland’s Grand Banks.  This ballad tells the story of a ship, the Morning Star, whose crew was fishing on Georges Banks. The ship was caught in a November gale that resulted in many fisherman freezing or being swept overboard before they could return to Newfoundland.  Other versions of this song are included in Greenleaf and Mansfield’s Ballads and Sea Songs of Newfoundland (1933:260–263); Kenneth Peacock’s Songs of the Newfoundland Outports 3 (1965:916–21); and among the recordings of MacEdward Leach.

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Just before the battle, mother

Ellen Emma Power

Just before the battle, mother / Ellen Emma Power

Just before the battle, mother, song (Just before the battle, mother, I am thinking most of you …) Composed by George Frederick Root, the sheet music for this song was originally published in Chicago in 1863. It was quite popular during the American Civil War, particularly among Unionist soldiers. 

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The brave volunteer

Henry Campbell

The brave volunteer / Henry Campbell

The brave volunteer, song (One cold stormy night in the month of December …) The song tells the story of a widow lamenting the loss of her husband, whose ship sank off the shore of Galway. In this version of the song, the protagonist (whose name is Henry) leaves to seek his fortune, but how remains unclear. Another version of the song, recorded on a 19th-century ballad sheet held in the Bodleian Libraries (Bod7845) specifies that Henry has volunteered to fight as a mercenary for a Portuguese king. 

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Dear old Newfoundland

Gerald Campbell

Dear old Newfoundland / Gerald Campbell

Dear old Newfoundland, song (Twas just a year ago today I left my Emerald's Isle …) Originally recorded by John Barr (also known as Little John Cameron) in 1967 under the title “Tribute to Newfoundland,” this song is an account of the similarities between Ireland and Newfoundland. The melody is similar to that used by Ewan MacColl for his song, “Come my little son.”

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Cock-a-doodle-doo

Frankie Nash

Cock-a-doodle-doo / Frankie Nash

Cock-a-doodle-doo, song (One morning after breakfast taking a bit of the walk …) This comic song about a rooster is full of sexual innuendo. It tells the story of a man who buys a cock while out for a walk, and the variety of encounters that ensue.

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Bells of Shandon

Ellen Emma Power

Bells of Shandon / Ellen Emma Power

Bells of Shandon, song (With deep affection and recollection, I often think on those Shandon Bells …) This song was composed by the Rev Francis Mahoney (Father Prout, 1804–1866). In this nostalgic song, the protagonist remembers the sound of the church bells being rung in St Anne’s Church, Shandon, Co Cork.

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The emigrant from Newfoundland

Gerald Campbell

The emigrant from Newfoundland / Gerald Campbell

The emigrant from Newfoundland, song (Dear Newfoundland, have I got to leave you …) This song may have been composed by JT Kinsella when he emigrated from Newfoundland to settle in Boston, Massachusetts. It laments the necessity of leaving Newfoundland to seek work on the mainland, in this case Boston. The song offers commentary on Confederation with Canada and includes reminiscences of favourite events and places in the St John’s area.  The song was published as early as 1904 in St John’s under the title “The Newfoundland exile” in James Murphy’s Old Colony Song Book. Details about the history of this song are available from the GEST song index. Variants have been published by Kenneth Peacock in the Songs of the Newfoundland Outports 2 (1965:360–61) and by MacEdward Leach.

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The drunken captain

Dermot Roche

The drunken captain / Dermot Roche

The drunken captain, song (In the stream of cancer [Strait of Canso] our good ship lay …) This song is usually known as “The drunken captain” in Newfoundland. Dermot Roche’s version closely resembles a variant titled “In Canso Strait” that more typically is associated with Nova Scotia origins. In both cases, the song tells the story of a ship’s captain who drinks too much and endangers his crew with his poor judgement. See Genevieve Lehr’s Come and I Will Sing You (1985:53–3) and Kenneth Peacock’s Songs of the Newfoundland Outports 3 (1965:871–2) for other versions of this song collected in Newfoundland.

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Down by the riverside

Minnie Murphy

Down by the riverside / Minnie Murphy

Down by the riverside, song (When I was young and in my prime my age scarce twenty-one …) This song tells the tale of a man whose parents force him to marry a woman of higher social status, forsaking the woman he loves. He later murders his wife because he cannot live with his choice. He is sentenced to hang for his crimes.  After Minnie Murphy finished her performance, one of the men present in the room comments that he sometimes heard this song in the lumber camps of western Newfoundland. Little is known about the origins of the song, though the reference to Wexford Gaol suggests a possible southeast Ireland connection. Variants, including that collected by MacEdward Leach from John James of Trepassey, Newfoundland, have been recorded almost exclusively in Newfoundland.

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Donald Monroe

Albert Roche

Donald Monroe / Albert Roche

Donald Monroe, song (Come all ye good men that's inclined for to roam, to seek for employment …) A variant of the 18th-century Scottish broadside, “Donald Munro,” this murder ballad tells the tale of a man who immigrates to America, leaving his sons behind as he cannot afford their fares. They follow in search of their father seven years later. They are attacked by highwaymen and killed. As they lay dying, their murderer realises that he has killed his two sons.  This song was widely sung in Newfoundland and several versions collected there, with the result that it exists with a number of different melodies and configurations of lyrics. Kenneth Peacock published three different versions in his Songs of the Newfoundland Outports 3 (1965:812–16). MacEdward Leach also recorded several versions.

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The Blackwater side

Caroline Brennan

The Blackwater side / Caroline Brennan

The Blackwater side, song (Ye lads of this nation of low and high station, I pray pay attention and listen to me …) Caroline Brennan introduces “The Blackwater side” with a story about her grandmother, “Irish Biddy,” and the time that she spent working in the Sweetman Company’s sail loft in Placentia. This was one of the songs that she sang to remember Ireland.  The song tells the story of a couple who court on the banks of the Blackwater. A variant version of “The Blackwater side” was collected by Kenneth Peacock in 1951 and published in Songs of the Newfoundland Outports 2 (1965:503–504).

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