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The bonny bunch of roses

Tom Murphy & Minnie Murphy

The bonny bunch of roses / Tom Murphy & Minnie Murphy

The bonny bunch of roses, song (By the margin of the ocean, one morning in the month of June …) The lyrics of this ballad take the form of a conversation between Napoleon Bonaparte’s widow and his son. She warns her son of the danger of challenging England, Ireland, and Scotland—the bonny bunch of roses—and the folly of attacking Russia.  It is quite similar to another version of this song collected from Anthony Power in the neighbouring town of Branch by Aidan O’Hara. Tom and Minnie Murphy’s version of this song is remarkable as an example of duet singing, a practice that is comparatively rare in traditional Newfoundland singing. 

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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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The broken-hearted milkman

Tom Murphy

The broken-hearted milkman / Tom Murphy

The broken-hearted milkman, song (I’m a hard-working milkman in grief I’m arrayed …) Originally published as “Polly Perkins of Paddington Green” during the mid-19th century, this song was composed by Harry Clifton (1832–1872), a London-based music-hall songwriter. The version sung by Tom Murphy replaces the references to the London locality with references to Ireland.

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The cottage by the sea

Jack Mooney

The cottage by the sea / Jack Mooney

The cottage by the sea, song (To a little seaside village came a youth one summer's day …) Jack Mooney learned this song from his mother, Esther (Careen) Mooney, who was originally from Point Lance, Newfoundland. This song tells the story of a young man who visits a seaside village. He engages in what he thinks is a harmless flirtation with a local woman, leaving her at the end of the summer. He returns a year later when he realises that he loves her, but discovers that she has died of a broken heart.  This song was recorded as “Just goodbye I am going home,” by American old-time singer-songwriter Roy Harvey on 9 September 1930 (Columbia 15609-D). 

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The days of the week

Stan McGrath

The days of the week / Stan McGrath

The days of the week, song (On Monday morning as I roved out …) Also known as “A week’s matrimony” or “The woeful marriage,” this comic broadside ballad tells the story of a whirlwind courtship and marriage that ends in violence and mental instability.  Stan McGrath learned this song while working away from the Cape Shore in the lumberwoods.

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The dewy dells of Yarrow

John Joe English

The dewy dells of Yarrow / John Joe English

The dewy dells of Yarrow, song (There was a man lived in this town …) This song is a variant of the border ballad, “The Dowie Dens of Yarrow.” It tells the story of a fight between a poor ploughman and nine brothers.  John Joe English learned it from a man who used to stop by the fish stores where he worked. 

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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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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 fair Fanny Moore

Patsy Judge

The fair Fanny Moore / Patsy Judge

The fair Fanny Moore, song (Yonder stands a cottage all deserted and alone...) This murder ballad most likely has its origins in the Irish or English broadside presses, though it is much more commonly heard in North American contexts. Newfoundland song scholar Anna Kearney Guigné speculates that the song gained “new life in the New World through its dissemination by way of oral tradition in such contexts as the lumber camps alongside such media as print and recordings” (2016:122).  In other versions of this song, the wealthy suitor is named Randal and Fanny’s true love (a poor shepherd) is named Henry. In Patsy’s version of the song, the names are used interchangeably; it seems probable that this was simply a memory slip.

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The forest was covered in bushes

Patsy Judge

The forest was covered in bushes / Patsy Judge

The forest was covered in bushes, song (One night as the moon it shone bright and shone clear …) Elsewhere this song is known as “The False-hearted lover,” “A week before Easter,” and “The false bride.” It tells the story of a man whose sweetheart marries someone else. The protagonist witnesses the marriage and consummation before announcing that he will die of a broken heart. The text was published as a broadside as early as 1690; it was recorded widely during the 20th century.

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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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The girl who slighted me

Gerald Campbell

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).

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