Search

 

Gerald Campbell (1933–2019)

Nlresize Gerald Campbell Roche House
Gerald Campbell playing the accordion in the Roche's house, ca. 1975 (photo courtesy of Aidan O’Hara; used with permission).

Born on 2 June 1933 in Branch, Gerald Campbell comes from a musical family. His mother was the local schoolteacher and church organist. But many of Gerald’s songs—the long ballads in any case—come from his father, Henry.

Music is a constant part of Gerald’s life; he sings from morning to night, remembering the old songs, keeping his voice in shape, and absorbing new songs into his vast repertoire of popular music (Hank Snow and Ernest Tubb, for example, feature in Gerald’s repertoire). When Aidan O’Hara visited the Cape Shore during the 1970s, he often met Gerald at house parties. Gerald used to play the accordion for the dancing, this accomplishment making him a welcome addition at house parties all around the area. There was also a wooden bridge just outside of Branch that was a favourite place for dancing and where Gerald often went to play. 

Gerald Campbell playing the accordion for dancers, August 1980 / The Radharc Trust Film Archive
Gerald Campbell playing the accordion for dancers, August 1980 / The Radharc Trust Film Archive
Gerald Campbell playing the accordion for a house party in the Roche house. This image appears in the opening scene of Radharc’s 1981 documentary The Forgotten Irish (©Radharc 1981; used with permission).
 
Get the details

Gerald Campbell playing the accordion for dancers, August 1980 / The Radharc Trust Film Archive

Gerald Campbell playing the accordion for a house party in the Roche house. This image appears in the opening scene of Radharc's 1981 documentary The Forgotten Irish.

Gerald Campbell playing the accordion for dancers, August 1980 / The Radharc Trust Film Archive

Gerald Campbell playing the accordion for dancers, August 1980 / The Radharc Trust Film Archive

© The Radharc Trust Film Archive

Though he’s given up the “cordeen,” Gerald still frequents the dances held in the local hall. Such evenings are focused on music and dance, but Gerald reports that he sometimes gets trapped in the toilets, asked to sing songs while the dance continues on. When the band take their break, he sometimes takes the stage to sing for those who were unable to squeeze themselves into the gents’!

Over the years, Gerald has performed at the St John’s Folk Festival on a number of occasions. During the mid-1970s he travelled with others from Branch to sing and play at the Mariposa Folk Festival in Ontario. He is also a regular contributor to the Cape St Mary’s Performance Series. Gerald has performed with Figgy Duff, Kelly Russell, Ryan’s Fancy, and Pamela Morgan, among others. Indeed, he recalled one incident when he was singing in the Ship Inn—a well-known music pub in St John’s. Members from the band Ryan’s Fancy arrived in and dragged him off to another pub, Erin’s, for some more music.

Gerald has contributed repertoire to song collectors, and boasts that he taught Eddie Coffey to sing “The sweet forget-me-not,” a song that Gerald learned from his father. In May 2005, Gerald was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Arts Society.


Listen

The emigrant from Newfoundland / Gerald Campbell

Get the details

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.

Thomas Trim / Gerald Campbell

Get the details

Thomas Trim / Gerald Campbell

I'm Thomas Trim, song (I’m Thomas Trim a swell young man …) Gerald Campbell learned this song from his father, Henry Campbell. Henry Campbell sang “Thomas Trim” in a school concert around 1910. The song describes a young dandy going on promenade to show off his finery

Georges Banks / Henry Campbell & Gerald Campbell

Get the details

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.

The girl who slighted me / Gerald Campbell

Get the details

The girl who slighted me / Gerald Campbell

The girl who slighted me, song (And I'll go down to yonder valley …) This song tells of an unhappy courtship. After being slighted by his sweetheart, the (male) protagonist of the song curses the girl in question and leaves Ireland for America.  One of the more common variants of this song is known as “Courting is a pleasure,” and Kenneth Peacock published another version in Songs of the Newfoundland Outports 2 under the title “In courtship there lies pleasure” (1965:465–466).

Untitled singles / Gerald Campbell, accordion

Get the details

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.

Dear old Newfoundland / Gerald Campbell

Get the details

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.”


Biographical Information

Courtesy of Gerald Campbell

Further Reading

Hohmann, Delf Maria, and Erin McArthur. 2016 (5 May). “Lifetime Achievement Award: Gerald Campbell.” Folk Arts Society. http://nlfolk.com/2016/05/05/g... (accessed 22 March 2018).