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Origins: When First I Went to Caledonia

DigiTrad:
WHEN FlRST I WENT TO CALEDONlA


Related threads:
Lyr Req: When First I Came to Caledonia (K Drever) (14)
Lyr Req: When First I Came to Caledonia (19)


In Mudcat MIDIs:
When First I Went To Caledonia (Another song sung to the Mo Run Geal Dileas tune. Midi modified from the Kelvinhaugh midi with reference to a recording by Waterson/Carthy, who learnt it in Cape Breton where the song was made.)


19 Nov 96 - 03:37 AM
Alex 20 Nov 96 - 02:13 AM
Colm 20 Nov 96 - 04:14 AM
Alex 21 Nov 96 - 02:11 AM
Colm 21 Nov 96 - 05:10 AM
Alex 24 Nov 96 - 09:59 PM
Charlie Cares 30 Oct 97 - 08:51 AM
Charlie Cares 30 Oct 97 - 08:52 AM
Cliff's 30 Oct 97 - 04:38 PM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 01 Sep 01 - 03:59 PM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 01 Sep 01 - 04:01 PM
Susanne (skw) 01 Sep 01 - 06:35 PM
GUEST, Paul from Hull 01 Sep 01 - 07:38 PM
GUEST,SueatQuietEarth@aol.com 16 Feb 02 - 12:58 PM
GUEST,SueatQuietEarth@aol.com 16 Feb 02 - 01:07 PM
Garry Gillard 17 Feb 02 - 05:23 AM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 17 Feb 02 - 09:06 AM
Gareth 17 Feb 02 - 11:52 AM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 17 Feb 02 - 11:55 AM
Susanne (skw) 17 Feb 02 - 06:29 PM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 14 Apr 02 - 12:56 PM
GUEST,Chris Amos 15 Apr 02 - 04:40 AM
Hamish 15 Apr 02 - 07:32 AM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 15 Apr 02 - 11:02 AM
Paul from Hull 15 Apr 02 - 11:06 AM
GUEST,nerd 15 Apr 02 - 03:10 PM
GUEST,Billy 16 Apr 02 - 01:08 AM
Desert Dancer 03 Dec 02 - 01:54 PM
Malcolm Douglas 03 Dec 02 - 03:28 PM
Malcolm Douglas 03 Dec 02 - 03:33 PM
Desert Dancer 04 Dec 02 - 05:25 PM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 04 Dec 02 - 10:50 PM
Desert Dancer 05 Dec 02 - 01:10 AM
Desert Dancer 05 Dec 02 - 01:28 PM
Desert Dancer 06 Dec 02 - 04:44 PM
Desert Dancer 09 Dec 02 - 02:03 PM
GUEST,ragtime willy 30 Apr 04 - 05:54 PM
Sandy Mc Lean 08 Sep 05 - 03:53 PM
GUEST,David Lowe 22 Sep 05 - 12:41 PM
rumgumption 20 Nov 05 - 09:50 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 21 Nov 05 - 12:17 AM
GeoffLawes 21 Nov 05 - 07:20 PM
GUEST,Desert Dancer 21 Nov 05 - 09:40 PM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 22 Nov 05 - 05:43 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 22 Nov 05 - 06:17 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 24 Nov 05 - 05:17 PM
GUEST,Martin Ryan 25 Nov 05 - 05:24 AM
GUEST,thurg 27 Feb 06 - 12:51 AM
GUEST,jamie snider 23 Apr 06 - 12:45 AM
Desert Dancer 23 Apr 06 - 08:24 PM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 24 Apr 06 - 04:07 PM
GUEST 30 May 06 - 07:08 PM
GUEST,jamie snider 16 Dec 06 - 01:20 AM
GUEST,thurg 16 Dec 06 - 07:52 AM
GUEST 30 Mar 07 - 03:09 PM
GUEST,meself 30 Mar 07 - 03:27 PM
GUEST,meself 22 Apr 07 - 07:59 PM
GUEST 26 Dec 07 - 02:24 PM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 26 Dec 07 - 09:42 PM
GUEST,ronnie maceachern 27 Jan 11 - 05:09 PM
Desert Dancer 27 Jan 11 - 05:37 PM
meself 27 Jan 11 - 05:57 PM
Sandy Mc Lean 27 Jan 11 - 11:32 PM
Sandy Mc Lean 27 Jan 11 - 11:37 PM
Joe Offer 05 Feb 11 - 09:48 PM
Diva 06 Feb 11 - 06:08 AM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 13 Oct 13 - 10:25 AM
GUEST,Woodpecker 07 Feb 16 - 09:41 PM
GUEST,Joyce 17 Mar 17 - 10:09 PM
Gutcher 18 Mar 17 - 12:18 PM
jonniewilks 26 May 17 - 10:08 AM
meself 26 May 17 - 02:52 PM
Ross Campbell 26 May 17 - 07:50 PM
GUEST,Julia L 27 May 17 - 07:49 PM
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Subject: When first I came to Caledonia
From:
Date: 19 Nov 96 - 03:37 AM

The song starts "When first I came to Caledonia And I got loading at number 3 And I got lodgings with Donald Norman He had a daughter that made good tea."

Does anybody know the history/background to this song? Who wrote it, where is it set and when? The placenames as far as I can make out are Guardioma? and Erwick harbour?


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: Alex
Date: 20 Nov 96 - 02:13 AM

From Tony Cuffe's album WHEN FIRST I WENT TO CALEDONIA "A song from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. .. refers to the Caledonia Coal Mines in Glace Bay. #3 is one of the pits. Scataree is a small island off the coast of Cape Breton. Boulardrie is one of the more fertile farming areas. From the book SONGS AND STORIES OF DEEP COVE, CAPE BRETON by Amby Thomas" I can post the lyrics if you need them.


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: Colm
Date: 20 Nov 96 - 04:14 AM

Please do!


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: Alex
Date: 21 Nov 96 - 02:11 AM

Colm - I have it on my word processor but this forum doesn't allow paste so I'll Email it to DT - if you want me to copy you send me your Email address. I'm at NFHJ69A@PRODIGY.COM


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: Colm
Date: 21 Nov 96 - 05:10 AM

Hello Alex,

I've tried to reach you but my messages were returned Host unknown. Thanks for the reply. I heard Norma Waterson sing the song but it's quite difficult to decipher some of the lyrics by ear from her version.

Thanks in advance,

Colm doyle_colm@mail.btj.se


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: Alex
Date: 24 Nov 96 - 09:59 PM

Colm, Did you get my email with the lyrics? The first I sent came back as well. They must have some electronic Postal Service employees involved.


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: Charlie Cares
Date: 30 Oct 97 - 08:51 AM

Would one of you be kind enough to post these words to me as well?


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: Charlie Cares
Date: 30 Oct 97 - 08:52 AM

Would one of you be kind enough to post these words to me as well?


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Subject: Lyr Add: WHEN FIRST I WENT TO CALEDONIA
From: Cliff's
Date: 30 Oct 97 - 04:38 PM

Song from Amby Thomas's Songs and Stories of Deep Cove Cape Breton. Caledonia refers to the Caledonia Coal mines in Glace Bay. #3 is one of the pits.

WHEN FIRST I WENT TO CALEDONIA

When First I went to Caledonia
I got loading at Number three
And I got Boarding at Donald Norman's
He had a daughter who could make good tea

And it was me and my brother Charlie
The biggest shavers you ever did see
We speared eels in the month of April
And starving slaves on Scataree

I went to Norman's for a pair of brochan
A pound of soap and a cake of tea
But Norman said he would not give them
Till fish got plenty on Scataree

So I went over to their big harbor
Just on purpose for to see the spray
I spied a maiden from Bouladrie over
She seemed to me like the queen of may

Now if I had pen from Pennsylvania
And if I had paper of purest white
And if I had ink of the rosy morning
A true love not unto you I'd write

But I wish I was on the deepest ocean
As far from land as once I could be
A sailing over the deepest ocean
Where a women's love would not trouble me

I'd lay my head to a cask of brandy
And its a dandy I do declare
For when I'm drinking I'm seldom thinking
How I can gain that young lady fair

When First I went to Caledonia
I got loading at Number three
And I got Boarding at Donald Norman's
He had a daughter who could make good tea

--- Line breaks
added ---
---Jeff (PA)---


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 01 Sep 01 - 03:59 PM

The song probably dates back to the 19th century. No one knows just how old it is or who wrote it originally. A couple of the lyrics are also found in Peggy Gordon, another popular song in Nova Scotia.

Caledonia or #3 Colliery was one of the best producing mines of Cape Breton.


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 01 Sep 01 - 04:01 PM

Oh yes, it also shows the influence of the Scottish Gaels. Brogan is a common Gaelic word for shoes.


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: Susanne (skw)
Date: 01 Sep 01 - 06:35 PM

To be found in the DT as well, called When first I WENT to Caledonia ...


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: GUEST, Paul from Hull
Date: 01 Sep 01 - 07:38 PM

Thanks Alex, for posting the info.......its truly MAGICAL to hear Norma Waterson sing it live, I got to say...


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: GUEST,SueatQuietEarth@aol.com
Date: 16 Feb 02 - 12:58 PM

Did you get the words to this song, as I am looking for them! Thanks :)


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: GUEST,SueatQuietEarth@aol.com
Date: 16 Feb 02 - 01:07 PM

Sorry, have now got words, didn't understand how the site worked - duh!!!! :)


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: Garry Gillard
Date: 17 Feb 02 - 05:23 AM

My page for Norma Waterson's version of this song, with the words and some notes is here.

Garry


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 17 Feb 02 - 09:06 AM

Gary,
No alledgedly about it. The Caledonia mine is in Cape Breton. Now closed. The setting is around the mid to latter 1800s. It is "brochans", which is the SCOTTISH Gaelic word for shoes. It is sometimes spelled "brogans". There is no doubt in many minds that the song lyrics comes from Cape Breton. The movement of miners has taken it back to the old country(ies) and to the US.

It's popular still in Cape Breton. There, one of the verses seems to have come out of the Peggy Gordon song, which has been very popular in Nova Scotia.


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: Gareth
Date: 17 Feb 02 - 11:52 AM

I cant comment on the tune, but structurally, and content wise it seeems similar to the Tyneside song BYKER HILL

Anythoughts, or can someone who can read music/ is familiar with both songs comment ?

Gareth


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Subject: Lyr Add: I WENT TO NORMAN'S
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 17 Feb 02 - 11:55 AM

"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".


WHEN I FIRST WENT TO CALEDONIA

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

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.


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: Susanne (skw)
Date: 17 Feb 02 - 06:29 PM

Thanks, George. Do you happen to know when the O'Donnell book appeared or whether it's still available?


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 14 Apr 02 - 12:56 PM

For details of the book, Suzanne, check here.

Jack O'Donell's Publications


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: GUEST,Chris Amos
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 04:40 AM

Have a listen to Rick Fieldings programme with Jamie Snider over in the Mudcat radio page, its well worth a listen and they have an interesting discussion about this very song.

Chris


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: Hamish
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 07:32 AM

Hah! I love this song. But was always puzzled by the innuendo in "He had a daughter could make good tea". Now, what was that all about? So when I saw Chris Wood a while back - he does a killer version on the first album with Andy Cutting - I asked him. He said "I think they like to drink tea in Cape Breton." So that's that cleared up then...


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 11:02 AM

Yes, that's exactly it. It's not innuendo.

A daughter was highly prized if she could make good tasting tea.

Not just back then, 150 years ago. Still important even now.


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: Paul from Hull
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 11:06 AM

D*mn right! *G*


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: GUEST,nerd
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 03:10 PM

Tony Cuffe once told me that he met people in NS who remember Donald Norman's general store, where the character is refused credit. So it seems more likely early 20th C than 19th (though, of course, the floating verses are older).

I think it's great this song is being sung in the UK. I believe it was Tony who popularized it, and it's another piece of his remarkable legacy. We miss him here in the US!


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: GUEST,Billy
Date: 16 Apr 02 - 01:08 AM

As nerd says, Tony Cufe will be sorely missed. There is an obit in the current "Dirty Linen" with much reference to his influence and work with many artists in the Scottish folk scene. Sadly, with contributions on recordings by bands such as Alba, Jock Tamson's Bairns and Ossian, he recorded only one solo album, "When First I Went To Caledonia".


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 03 Dec 02 - 01:54 PM

I'm reviving this thread because I've finally gotten my paws on a copy of Songs and Stories from Deep Cove Cape Breton. The text to the song as recorded from Amby Thomas is above, but his tune (at least as I can figure it out with my poor rhythm reading skills) is somewhat different (although related) to the one used by Tony Cuffe and Waterson:Carthy (Norma Waterson) ("Mo Rùin Gael Dìleas", as in the Midi).

A few questions:

George - your second text, from Helen Creighton: I thought that I'd found it when I was reading this thread last spring, but now I don't. Am I looking cross-eyed at my copy of Maritime Folk Songs, or did you just mean that the Peggy Gordon tune could be found there? or...?
The note that Amy Thomas's singing is to the tune of "Mo Rùin Gael Dìleas": whose interpretation was that? John C O'Donnell's?
Tony Cuffe and Norma Waterson have very similar texts (the first one noted above in this thread), that differ in interesting ways from the traditional texts above. (I think it's interesting that the brandy and the deep ocean are places to escape the thoughts of lovely women in the TC and NW versions, but are not in the trad. versions.) Any wild-ass guesses (or better, inside info) about whether one influenced the other, or whether they both got it from the same third source? Someone seems to have inside info, since the Mudcat Midi note says that Waterson:Carthy learned it on Cape Breton. (But did they learn it from a Cape Bretoner who'd been listening to Tony Cuffe? :-) Or did Tony Cuffe meet the same Cape Bretoner?)

Aargh. Not that this is incredibly important in any way, or that the "truth" is likely to be accessible... just questions in the mind of a picky folkie.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 03 Dec 02 - 03:28 PM

The comment with the midi was mine, based (not quite accurately) on what Martin and Norma said about the song last time I heard them play it. I couldn't be more specific because that's all I remembered, but a recent discussion on rec.music.folk reminded me that they had learned it earlier than the trip to Cape Breton. What actually happened was that the song came up in the conversation while they were staying with some people there, and that those people subsequently discovered that they were closely related to the maker of the song. Eliza Carthy confirmed the story, and seemed to imply that the writer was still living, but I may have misunderstood that.

Tony Cuffe and Norma Waterson both learned the song from Songs of Deep Cove. Presumably, any changes to text and tune from the published set are their own.






! I'm almost sure that the subject came up somewhere round here quite recently (and that Eliza Carthy had something to say about it) but I can't find it now. Maybe it was all a dream...


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 03 Dec 02 - 03:33 PM

Hmm. Do please ignore that last part, which belongs to the first draft, before I remembered where the other discussion had taken place! Thought I'd deleted it...


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 04 Dec 02 - 05:25 PM

Thanks for your clarification, such as it is, Malcolm. :-)

And while we're admitting to skipping the "preview" option before posting, in my Dec. 3 post, above, second question, I meant Amby Thomas, not Amy, of course.
George? I'll PM you to take a look at this.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 04 Dec 02 - 10:50 PM

Becky,

I typed in the attribution to both of those right out of the book And Now the Fields Are Green. I don't have a copy of Maritime Folk Songs yet. Someday, I hope to.

As far as the song being to the tune of Mo Rùin Geal Dìleas, it could have been John O'Donnell's impression. I think I have heard it sung to the Mo Rùin Geal Dìleas tune. IT seems to scan properly. Stretching some places, and slurring others in a few places.

If it doesn't show up in Maritime Folk Songs, it must have been in a different book. Did you try the link to the John O'Donnell's book? There might be a link to his e-mail?

I suppose if I were to try and call Ronnie, he might be able to shed some light on it.

If I do get hold of Ronnie, would there be any specifices you want me to ask him about the song?


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 05 Dec 02 - 01:10 AM

I guess I'm just trying to figure out how this version being (mostly) propagated in the U.K. (the Cuffe/Waterson version: the first text in this thread (and the one in the DT) and the Mo Rùin Geal Dìleas tune) relates to what was and/or is sung on Cape Breton. They both name Songs and Stories from Deep Cove, so I suspect there's one person who encountered it there and altered it to their taste, and that others have picked it up from there. But, had this person encountered other versions, to have picked up the Mo Rùin Geal Dìleas tune? Did he or she rearrange the verse order on their own or did s/he know of the Creighton version (and where did s/he find the Creighton version??).

I was on Cape Breton this summer, but didn't connect with any singing...

It's a song I'm enjoying singing, but I like to get to the source, if not to sing that, then at least to understand where what I'm singing came from. But, again, I have a feeling these are questions whose answers are lost in the folk process.

But, I will go ahead and send John O'Donnell a note and see what comes of it.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: Tune Add: WHEN FIRST I WENT TO CALEDONIA
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 05 Dec 02 - 01:28 PM

Here's the result of this morning's exercise:

T:When First I Went to Caledonia
C:Trad.
I:Amby Thomas version, original notation by Ron MacEachern, Songs and Stories from Deep Cove, Cape Breton, College of Cape Breton Press, 1979
Q:1/4=80
V:1
M:9/8
L:1/8
K:A
E E2   F |A3  A2 A  (F E) E | E3 C2
I wish I were on the deep-est o-cean
E E2   F | (F A2) A2 A F2 E | (E F2) z
as far from land as once I could be
G A2   A |F3 E2 C   (B, A,) A, |A,3 C2
a sail-ing o-ver the deep- est o- cean
E    E E2 | (E F2) E   C2 B, B,2 |A,3 z |]
where woman's love would not trouble me.

I have turned Mr. MacEachern's tied eighth notes (same pitch) into quarter notes because that made it easier for me to read. (And thanks, Rod Stradling, for your HTML tutorial on the Musical Traditions website. (Which is apparently in the midst of server changes today.)) (And thank God for the new Preview feature!)

So what do you folks think about the relationship between this and Mo Rùin Geal Dìleas? (This midi link is to the tune as notated by Alfred Moffat's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Highlands.)

What I want to know from folks with local knowledge (George?) is whether there are other folks on Cape Breton who sing it more like Mo Rùin Geal Dìleas than Amby Thomas apparently did. And I also want to know how the Brits (Cuffe & Waterson) who say they got it from Songs and Stories from Deep Cove got switched over to the other tune.

Also, here's the quote from Amby Thomas about the song:

I just heard it you know. People singing it at home. Different people had it. Once a new song would come out everybody would have it. You'd hear everybody singing it around home and at parties. There's a lot of it mixed up with another song. They put them words in it about Cape Breton. I have no idea who wrote it. It seems this fellow he left the country and he went down to Glace Bay, Caledonia mines it was that he got work in. According to the song he made it himself; "When I first went to Caledonia I got loading at number three". That's the pit it was, Number Three.

What a lovely window to a musical culture...

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 06 Dec 02 - 04:44 PM

refresh


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 09 Dec 02 - 02:03 PM

refresh


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: GUEST,ragtime willy
Date: 30 Apr 04 - 05:54 PM

I agree with Hamish, Chris Wood does a wonderful version of this song. Does anyone have any chords for it, please?


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 08 Sep 05 - 03:53 PM

These threads should be combined as the subject is the same.
   The first recording of this song was probably by The Men Of The Deeps. John O'Donnell is their music director as well as a university professor of music.


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Came to Caledonia
From: GUEST,David Lowe
Date: 22 Sep 05 - 12:41 PM

It was me and my brother Charlie
Two bigger shavers you ne'er did see
Were spearing eels in the month of April
And starving slaves out on Scatterie


What does the last line mean?

I know that a number of slaves managed to find freedom in Nova Scotia.
However, ex slaves in Canada found it very hard to survive.
Taken literally the song suggests that Charlie and his brother actively starved slaves.
Surely this is unlikely.

Perhaps it just means that there were slaves who were starving on Scatterie.

Or perhaps the word 'slaves' means something else in this context.

Any ideas?


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Came to Caledonia
From: rumgumption
Date: 20 Nov 05 - 09:50 PM

I've wondered myself about those starving slaves, but I have no further light to shed. Anyone else?

In the next verse, I learned the end of the first line as "to buy some brochan" and assumed it meant porridge (also from the Scots Gaelic) rather than footwear. I don't know whether it's brochan until it's cooked though--if not, then the idea would make little sense.


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Came to Caledonia
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 21 Nov 05 - 12:17 AM

"pair of brochans" sounds to me like mis-heard brogans. The "starving slaves" could be a mis-hearing as well, since it doesn't make sense.


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Came to Caledonia
From: GeoffLawes
Date: 21 Nov 05 - 07:20 PM

If you read "starving" as an adjective rather than as a verb then it could be "me and my brother Charlie" who are the (metaphorical) starving slaves -not a great line but possibly having some sense in a colloquial way of speaking.


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Came to Caledonia
From: GUEST,Desert Dancer
Date: 21 Nov 05 - 09:40 PM

That's my reading of it.

~ B in T


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Came to Caledonia
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 22 Nov 05 - 05:43 PM

Q, it's the other way around. Brochan is the Gaelic. Brogan is the poor English illiterate's fumbling around for the correct spelling.

Scatterie is a desolate little island off the eastern coast of Cape Breton. It's in English, so I'm guessing that some poor souls were on the island trying to make a life on it. Could be prisoners from one of the wars. It's kind of a hard scrabble life on that little bit of rock. Especially in the older times with no boats going there.


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Came to Caledonia
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 22 Nov 05 - 06:17 PM

The OED gives 'brógan' as the Irish and Gaelic spelling, dim. of bróg.
Brochan is Gaelic for porridge or gruel.

The English have been trying to eliminate Gaelic for a long time, bringing education, but with all those folk singers, it is a difficult task. (ducking into a fox hole).


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Came to Caledonia
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 24 Nov 05 - 05:17 PM

To Joe and all,

I recommend linking this thread to the Peggy Gordon thread and also to the one for Carrickfergus, which is the overseas root of this great song. Also to any other near relations such as "Sick Young Lover," if it's in the DT.

Peggy Gordon is one of the theme songs of my life.

I'm grateful for having a chance to see these further versions, and I think all DT users would benefit from linking up the variants.

Thanks all!

Bob


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Came to Caledonia
From: GUEST,Martin Ryan
Date: 25 Nov 05 - 05:24 AM

I must confess this is one of those songs I happily hum harmonies to without listening to the words! Not sure why.

I suspect "Carrickfergus" (with a murky past itself) is a red herring, so to speak - the bits in common are floating verses that turn up in lots of places.

On Irish connections: I'm intrigued by "Scatterie", there being a Scattery Island in the Shannon estuary. The "starving slaves" phrase puzzles me - seems like a mishearing of some sort. No shortage of eels, incidentally, in the Shannon - though not big enough to spear!

Regards


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Came to Caledonia
From: GUEST,thurg
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 12:51 AM

Re: the melody - I heard Ronnie MacEachern sing this song many times, to the tune of Mo Ruin Gael Dileas, presumably the melody used by Amby Thomas. Ronnie would sing the Gaelic chorus as well; again, I assume he was following Amby Thomas's practice. It seems to me that the Gaelic chorus was given in Ronnie's book.

I always assumed that Any Cutting's melody is his own variation on the original Mo Ruin Gael Dileas tune.


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Came to Caledonia
From: GUEST,jamie snider
Date: 23 Apr 06 - 12:45 AM

I learned this song from my good friend Ronnie MacEachern, who had it from Amby Thomas........one of my fondest memories of the air to it is playing at a senior citizen's home in Big Pond when, after our set of tunes and folksongs in English [this is 25 years ago] all of the seniors joined hands and sang us a bunch of songs in Gaelic, one of which had the the same air of the Caledonia song. The verse about the "pair of brochans" is kind of about shoes-indirectly- the gaelic and Irish word for bread is similar to the word for shoes-the singer[who obviously knew english as well] was poking fun at someone whose gaelic was inadequate,thus asking for some shoes rather than a loaf of bread-the poetic "conceit" carried over to the asking for a "pound of soap and a cake of tea" rather than a cake of soap and a pound of tea.......all very subtle, but you can't underestimate the intelligence and awareness of the world at large of those cape breton gaelic intellectuals and wits from a hundred years ago.


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Came to Caledonia
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 23 Apr 06 - 08:24 PM

Thanks for that, Jamie!

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Came to Caledonia
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 24 Apr 06 - 04:07 PM

Jamie,

You may be happy to hear that your friend Dave Stone sings this song on occasion. I'll tell him you stopped in to the Mudcat.


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Came to Caledonia
From: GUEST
Date: 30 May 06 - 07:08 PM

Just a thought/interpretation

"Were spearing eels in the month of April
And starving slaves out on Scatterie"

read as

'We're (*we are*) spearing eels in the month of April
And (*we are* - unspoken) starving slaves out on Scatterie'

i.e. - the 'we' are working our butts off trying to catch eels which don't bring in a living,'we' ARE the slaves working for nothing on Scatterie
(from me central-heated house !!!)


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: GUEST,jamie snider
Date: 16 Dec 06 - 01:20 AM

Many months later, revisiting this dialogue, that last post makes good sense, given the relationship between captains/merchants and fishermen in the old days....I'll include that verse again now when I sing the song, all in a {somewhat} good conscience.


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Subject: RE: When first I came to Caledonia
From: GUEST,thurg
Date: 16 Dec 06 - 07:52 AM

I'd like to see someone come up with an innocuous variation on that line that makes sense without requiring explanation. I suspect that "starving slaves" is a mangling of the original wording (not that I claim that as a unique insight!), but clearly no one sees what words were being mangled. It's possible that someone just made up the verse off the top of his head and those were the words that bumbled out of his mouth, but even then it seems very awkward and unlikely phraseology.

It's too bad we didn't have another source for the song; I think it was fairly well known at one time, at least in that area of Cape Breton.

After reading some of this thread awhile back, I started singing that line as "TWO starving slaves out on Scatterie", which suggested that suggested meaning a little more strongly, but it's still a pretty weak line ...

Of course, it depends on how you feel about making any kind of alteration in the received text.


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Went to Caledonia
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Mar 07 - 03:09 PM

Check out Fine Friday's recording of this song on their album "Mowing the Machair." It will make you cry.


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Went to Caledonia
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 30 Mar 07 - 03:27 PM

If you know the tune, all you need for the words is whatever phone book is handy ...


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Went to Caledonia
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 22 Apr 07 - 07:59 PM

Hmmm - that last post of mine was in reference to a question about Ronnie MacEachern's song "Go Off on Your Way" - I don't know how it ended up on this thread, which wasn't up at the time ...


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Went to Caledonia
From: GUEST
Date: 26 Dec 07 - 02:24 PM

i hope this message gets through. there was a typo in the book when it came out the line should have read starving staves out on scatterie, a stave being one piece of wood of which many would be hooped together to make a pickling barrel for fish, eel, meat, rum etc, i suppose they could be laid flat for making a flake or fish /eel drying platform.the fellow in the song and i suspect this particular verse was made my lauchlin macneil of french road was just saying that he and his brother caught so many they figured they didn't leave any for the people on scatterie island who would catch and process the eels, drying or salting but probably in this case drying for selling or to be consumed later simply preserving for when it became more difficult to get out on the ocean. eel is very delicious and tastes a lot like trout in my opinion. somebody asked about erwick harbour. i think the words they cant make out are "their BIG HARBOUR" NOT REFERING TO ANY BIG HARBOUR but more specifically to Big Harbour which is over by boulenderie. the melody was taken from the gaelic song mo ruin geal dileas but i transcribed it as amby sang it which was a variant on the typical melody line. sorry folks i missed that typo and then the book was published and i guess it was just compounded transmission trouble after that.its all my fault!


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Went to Caledonia
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 26 Dec 07 - 09:42 PM

Thanks, Ron. Appreciate the correction. Much appreciate all your songs.


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Went to Caledonia
From: GUEST,ronnie maceachern
Date: 27 Jan 11 - 05:09 PM

this is another note concerning this song which i got from amby thomas. it was amby (ambrose) himself who told me the song was to be sung to the air of "mo ruin geal dileas"......when he sang the song to me his version of the melody was close but not the usually sung melody. the man he learned it from (lauchie macneil) was a singer of gaelic songs and i suspect this melody variation is one of ambys creation, not having heard the song or sung the song for a few years before i came and asked him to sing it...... around the same time as i was recording songs with amby (1975-1977 APPROX.) I WAS ALSO VISITING MIKE AND MARY-ANN MACDoUGALL OF ingonish . i asked mike if he knew of the song and sang it to him as amby had sung it to me. mike said he had heard the song being sung but the melody was .....and then he sang me to standard version of mo ruin geal dileas melody, only without words, as he could not remember which gaelic song that melody was to. however !!! and this is where things get really exciting bouys and gulls!!!! i was listening to one of the recordings i made the evening we had this discussion and while mike was singing to me the melody to caledonia as he remembered it, mary-ann (mikes mother and traditional singer of great note) was singing along with him...i guess the stars were just alighned properly or maybe just my lucky night...the only line sung, the only words remembered, were........"and starving souls out on scatterie".....so here we have it..   just to backtrack a little now...when i first visited amby he sang the words starving staves....i did not understand what this was and after going home and transcribing the song i went back and asked him what the lyric meant...he said he didn't know and said he might have remembered it wrong and he wondered if i knew what it might be....i said no i didn't know and suggested (which i never should have done) that maybe it was something else that sounded like staves, like maybe slaves and he said well yes maybe that was what i was.....a few weeks later when i was visiting amby again he asked me if i could record the song again as he was sure that slaves was the right word. so we recorded the song again with the word slaves... i have ever since that day been quite sceptical about this word and feel that amby may have accepted this word because i had suggested it. i felt stave was the proper word for the song and when i sent the lyric to the publisher to be printed i am quite sue i sent stave, mainly because i remember my great disappointment when i got the finished product and there was slave......so as you can imagine i am totally shocked to find this mary-ann lyric version, and i truly hope someone appreciates this discovery as do i......thank you for your time and interest....have a nice day


this note is dedicated to the slaves, the staves and the souls of scatterie


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Went to Caledonia
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 27 Jan 11 - 05:37 PM

Thanks, again!


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Went to Caledonia
From: meself
Date: 27 Jan 11 - 05:57 PM

Thanks for that, Ronnie.


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Went to Caledonia
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 27 Jan 11 - 11:32 PM

Hi Ronnie,
Welcome to the Mudcat! I once had an Amby Thomas songbook which I can't find now. Songs From Deep Cove or something like that. Were you involved in its publication or perhaps Allister? I enjoyed your stuff back in the days of the Rise And Follies.
Why not join up on Mudcat as your knowledge and expertise would be welcomed! I could use some help pushing Cape Breton music as well.
                Sandy


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Went to Caledonia
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 27 Jan 11 - 11:37 PM

If I had taken the time to read again this old thread my question would have been answered earlier. In any case Welcome!


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Went to Caledonia
From: Joe Offer
Date: 05 Feb 11 - 09:48 PM

"When First I Came to Caledonia" is the song for February 6 in Jon Boden's A Folk Song a Day project....and you'll note that this is one of the first threads in the history of Mudcat.

-Je-


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Went to Caledonia
From: Diva
Date: 06 Feb 11 - 06:08 AM

I'm sure I've heard Jim McFarland singing this song..awfie braw


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Went to Caledonia
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 13 Oct 13 - 10:25 AM

Just talked to a friend, Lee Price, who explained that there was a convict ship ran aground on Main-a-dieu, and felt the slaves may have referred to them


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Went to Caledonia
From: GUEST,Woodpecker
Date: 07 Feb 16 - 09:41 PM

I suppose it couldn't be "starving saithes" (young pollock, coley, coalfish)? Taking the eels that they feed on and thus causing a shortage of fish?

"The saithe spawns offshore in 100-200 m of water to the north-west of Britain, in the northern North Sea, off Norway, Faroes and south Iceland. It spawns from January to April, and the eggs, which are about 1 mm in diameter, float in the upper 30 m of the open sea for 6-9 days before hatching. The young fish moves close inshore by midsummer, and may spend from 1-2 years in shallow water there, feeding on animal plankton and the eggs and fry of other fish species. The immature fish then moves offshore, but continues to live near the surface for a further 1-2 years, feeding on small crustaceans, sand eels, herring and other small fish."

http://www.fao.org/wairdocs/tan/x5924e/x5924e01.htm

Any evidence of saithe(s) in Cape Breton?

Frances.


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Went to Caledonia
From: GUEST,Joyce
Date: 17 Mar 17 - 10:09 PM

I've got a version of this song from a book called The Cape Breton Songster, published in 1935 in Sydney, NS. It's described as being on the tune of Mo rùin geal dileas and follows the Gaelic lyrics, but notes that the English words are "in no sense a translation" of the Gaelic. The lyrics are similar to the Helen Creighon version but with the following verse:

Peter Edwards and Duncan Rory
The damnedest shavers you ever see
A-spearing eels in the month of April
And starving slaves out on Scatterie

A pair of brogans is a pair of shoes, from the Scottish Gaelic. This song is still sung in Cape Breton.


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Went to Caledonia
From: Gutcher
Date: 18 Mar 17 - 12:18 PM

Starving is still in use here to describe extreme cold.

Ex slaves from the southern parts of the U.S.A. would certainly feel the effects of the cold at that time of the year in Cape Breton.

It would be a natural expression for a person of Scots extraction to use in Cape Breton.


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Went to Caledonia
From: jonniewilks
Date: 26 May 17 - 10:08 AM

There are copies of the Amby Thomas pamphlet available as PDFs online. Here's one, in fact: http://www.openmine.ca/sites/default/files/2528_bdc.pdf


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Went to Caledonia
From: meself
Date: 26 May 17 - 02:52 PM

Thanks, jonniewilks!


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Went to Caledonia
From: Ross Campbell
Date: 26 May 17 - 07:50 PM

Indeed, thanks, jonniewilks - I've been looking for this for ages!

http://www.openmine.ca/sites/default/files/2528_bdc.pdf

Ross


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Subject: RE: Origins: When First I Went to Caledonia
From: GUEST,Julia L
Date: 27 May 17 - 07:49 PM

Just a note that Cape Breton is not the only place that variations of this song are found in North America. Noted in Sam Henry is "The Ripest Apples" which was collected in Maine USA. There are many songs collected here with cross-over versions. I'll be publishing the first volume of my transcriptions of Maine songs soon (over 100 songs)
Julia


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