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Helen Creighton Collection

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Dan Calder 07 Jan 99 - 09:38 PM
Joe Offer 07 Jan 99 - 10:06 PM
George Seto - 07 Jan 99 - 10:08 PM
Joe Offer 02 Jul 99 - 02:32 PM
George Seto - 09 Sep 00 - 11:46 AM
Hollowfox 14 Sep 00 - 01:07 PM
jets 14 Sep 00 - 08:35 PM
Joe Offer 28 May 11 - 04:41 PM
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Subject: Helen Creighton Collection
From: Dan Calder
Date: 07 Jan 99 - 09:38 PM

A while back someone was searching for information on Helen Creighton. I just came across this, and thought it might be of some interest.

Enjoy, Dan

"As Many Songs As There Are Stars in the Sky"

the Folk Song Collection of Dr. Helen Creighton

In 1928 a young writer named Helen Creighton, was asked to research a story about Nova Scotia's pirates. She had never heard any local pirate stories, so she drove from her home in Dartmouth to the mouth of Halifax Harbour, at Eastern Passage. There she met Enos Hartlan, who not only told her pirate stories, but sang pirate songs. "That," said Helen, "is when the light went on." She reasoned that if this one person knew so many songs, imagine what was out there left to be discovered. Thus began the life's work of the woman known as "Canada's First Lady of Folklore". Until her death in 1989, Helen Creighton worked to collect the largest individual folklore collection in Canada - a collection which includes approximately 16,000 songs that reflect the diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds of Nova Scotians.

These include Mi'kmau songs from Chief William Paul at the Shubenacadie Reserve, Acadian songs from West Pubnico and Cheticamp, and ancient British ballads. She recorded German songs in Lunenburg County and Gaeiic songs from singers of Irish and Scottish heritage.

William Riley of Cherrybrook sang songs of slavery like "No More Auction Block for Me" and told Helen Creighton, "I knew this song since I was able to walk."

She found sea songs. Captain Arthur Hilton and seven other sea captains from Yarmouth sang shanties, without the aid of what the old salts used to call rusty water (dark rum). They were all members of the local Temperance Society.

Helen Creighton found songs of the supernatural, like "The Ghostly Sailors", still believed by many to be bad luck to sing at sea - or on shore.

Nova Scotians made up songs about their own lives. They sang songs about the tragic "Springhill Mining Disaster" and "The Halifax Explosion".

But it was the singers who breathed life into these songs. They willingly shared these treasures with Helen Creighton. People like Nathan Hatt of Middle River, Lunenburg County, who sang one song for each of his 86 years; Charles Owens, who at the age of 101 sang spirituals at his home in Bridgetown, and Ann Greenough, of Petpeswick, who first sang "The Nova Scotia Song" for Helen Creighton in 1933. It is now our province's unofficial anthem.

And these folk songs continue to be sung and enjoyed. Children learn them in school; they are performed at folk festivals around the province; and Clary Croft, who worked closely with Dr. Helen Creighton, continues to perform the traditional songs collected by his mentor. Artists like Ashley MacIsaac and Mary Jane Lamond and the Nova Scotia Mass Choir take the songs around the globe.

Helen Creighton gave Nova Scotia a rich folk song legacy. In fact, when she would ask how many songs a singer knew, she was frequently told, "as many songs as there are stars in the sky!"

The Helen Creighton Collection is at the Public Archives of Nova Scotia, Halifax.

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Subject: RE: Helen Creighton Collection
From: Joe Offer
Date: 07 Jan 99 - 10:06 PM

Thanks, Dan - click here to get to the previous "Canadiana" thread. I'm still wondering if there's any online access to the Creighton Collection. Hey, maybe it's a good excuse for me to visit Halifax again...
-Joe Offer-

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Subject: RE: Helen Creighton Collection
From: George Seto -
Date: 07 Jan 99 - 10:08 PM

As far as I know, there is no online access to the materials collected by Dr. Creighton. I should ask the Foundation people if there is a possibility of that. Hmmm. Good question.

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Subject: RE: Helen Creighton Collection
From: Joe Offer
Date: 02 Jul 99 - 02:32 PM

I'm still trying to find information about the Helen Creighton Collection at the Public Archives of Nova Scotia, and I'm wondering if anybody has new information. Has anyone been to the collection, and have you found anything more about online access?
Where's it located? The article above says Halifax, but I thought I saw a Dartmouth address for it. How easy is it to get in? You may have seen my comments in another thread about my attempt to get into the folklife collection in the Library of Congress in Washington - I couldn't do it. I also had only limited success at the library at Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut.
-Joe Offer, Sacramento, California-

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Subject: RE: Helen Creighton Collection
From: George Seto -
Date: 09 Sep 00 - 11:46 AM


I've just added a bibliography supplied by Clary Croft to our small web-site.

Helen Creighton Web-site -

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Subject: RE: Helen Creighton Collection
From: Hollowfox
Date: 14 Sep 00 - 01:07 PM

Joe, I'm sorry to hear of your (long ago) problems getting into the folklife collection. I'm only on break right now, so I can't track down the previous thread, but I can suggest to all and sundry, that if you want to visit a special collection, whether it's the whole library or part of a larger library, a phone call or e-mail beforehand could make a difference. Special collections librarians are usually glad to have visitors - besides meeting a kindred spirit, some places keep count of the numbers of visitors, questions, etc. for the annual report, and that helps justify the budget for the existance of the collection, and the librarian's job. When I visited there (too long ago), I was expected, and had no trouble getting in.

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Subject: RE: Helen Creighton Collection
From: jets
Date: 14 Sep 00 - 08:35 PM

I did at one time have a book of her songs but it has since disappeared or to put it another way,out on loan.As I recall I bought it from Lark in the Morning .In looking through there latest offerings ,I don't see it listed .I did manage to get 2 tunes from it before it left.One is Arcadia is my Native Land,and The Marriage of Jean Pieere I believe the title of the book was Songs of Arcadia

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Subject: RE: Helen Creighton Collection
From: Joe Offer
Date: 28 May 11 - 04:41 PM

The Helen Creighton Folklore Society is now at

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