The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #182   Message #652115
Posted By: George Seto -
17-Feb-02 - 11:55 AM
Thread Name: Origins: When First I Went to Caledonia
Subject: Lyr Add: I WENT TO NORMAN'S
"And Now the Fields Are Green - A Collection of Coal Mining Songs in Canada", by John C O'Donnell, has two versions in it. The first, was collected by Ron MacEachern from Amby Thomas' singing to the Gaelic Tune "Mo Rùin Gael Dìleas".


I wish I were but I wish in vain
I wish I were a young maid again.
A young maid again I will never be
'Til an orange grows on an apple tree

The sweetest apple will soon get rotten
The hottest love, it will soon grow cold
Young maiden's promise will be forgotten
Take care, young man, do not speak so bold.

IF I had pen from Pennsylvania
If I had paper of truly white
If I had ink of the rosy morning
A true love's promise to you I'd write

I wish I were on the deepest ocean
As far from land that once I could be
A-sailing over the deepest ocean
Where woman's love would not trouble me

I'd lay my head on a cask of brandy
And it's dandy I do declare
For when I'm drinking I'm always thinking
How can I gain that young lady fair.

When I first went to Caledonia,
I got loading at number three
And I got boarding at Donald Norman's
He had a daughter could make good tea

It was I and my brother Charlie
The biggest shavers you ever did see
Were spearing eels in the month of April
And starving slaves out on Scatterie

I went to Norman's for a pair of brochans
A cake of soap and a pound of tea
But Norman told me he wouldn't give them
Till fish got plenty in Scatterie

I went over to their Big Harbour
Just on purpose to see the spray
I spied a maiden from Boulardrie over
I surely thought her the Queen of May.

"When I First Went to Caledonia" likely descends from a class of dramatic ballads of the troubadour/trouvère period in France. Such songs often suggest two or more characters. "Scatterie" (Scatarie) is an island off the coast of Main-à-Dieu, Cape Breton; "Big Harbour" is near Baddeck on the Great Bras d'Or Lake; "Boulardrie" refers to Boularderie Island, separating Great Bras d'Or and St. Andrew's Channel. The Queen of May is a common image in many Irish songs of the amour courtois tradition.

That was from pages 26-28. The second one was found by Dr. Helen Creighton, to the tune of Peggy Gordon.


I went to Norman's for a pair of brogans
A bar of soap and a pound of tea,
But Norman said that he could not give them
'Til fish got plenty on "Scatteree"

So I went down to Sydney coalmine
Loading coal out of Number Three.
'Twas there I boarded with Donald Norman;
HE had the daughter could make good tea

I laid my head on a cask of brandy,
It was my fancy, I do declare.
And while I'm drinking I'm always thinking:
How can I win that young lady fair?

I wish that I was on Long Island,
I'd get good board and a cup of tea
Standing over by Duncan's door
And gazing over the deep blue sea

One day I crossed over to Big Harbour
On purpose for to see the spray
I spied a maiden from "Boulardree" over,
I surely thought she was Queen of May

The sweetest apple may soon grow rotten,
The hottest love, it may soon grow cold
A young man's promise may be forgotten
Take care, young lady, don't be too bold.

I wish I was on the ocean sailing
As far from land as my eye can see.
Sailing over the deep blue ocean
Where woman's love would not trouble me.

That can also be found in Helen Creighton's book "Maritime Folk Songs", printed in 1962.