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Canadian Folk Songs
Canadian Song Lyrics
Collected by Michael Mitchell


More music of Canada appears on our Canadian Social Studies page.

The Maple Leaf Forever
Alexander Muir (Public Domain)

This song was one of the contenders for selection as Canada's national anthem.

In days of yore, from Britain's shore,
Wolfe the dauntless hero came,
And planted firm Britannia's flag
On Canada's fair domain.
Here may it wave, our boast and pride,
And join in love together
The thistle, shamrock, rose entwine
The maple leaf forever.

The maple leaf, our emblem dear,
The maple leaf forever
God save our Queen and heaven bless
The maple leaf forever.

Our fair dominion now extends
From Cape Race to Nootka Sound
May peace forever be our lot,
And plenteous store abound
And may those ties of love be ours
Which discord cannot sever;
And flourish green o'er freedom's home
The maple leaf forever.

Repeat Chorus

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The York Boat Brigade
Michael Mitchell performs this song on Canada Is...

For good men and stout
The call first went out
For men who could brave the North Sea
From our Orkney Isle home
To the New World's unknown
With the good Hudson's Bay Company
A new kind of gold more precious tenfold
Lay waiting in Edmonton's fort
Fine beaver pelts, from which came the felt
For the hats for our gentry to sport

CHORUS:
And it's quick with the oars boys, don't give up now
We've ten miles to go and not more
There'll be women and rum when this day is done
When the York Boats are safely on shore
There'll be a quart for the steersman
A pint for the bowsman
A half-pint for Joseph and me
And the piper will play long into the day
When the York Boat Brigade comes ashore

Sailing and tracking, portaging and packing
We've a month to make two thousand miles
Eight men and a boat that we prayed we could float
Through those rapids we cursed all the while
Forty-four feet from her head to her feet
With a forged iron keel for a spine
She's not pretty this maid of the York Boat Brigade
But she's strong and she's swift and she's mine

At the first crack of dawn we're up and we're gone
With a breakfast of porridge and tea
The rests are too few for this bone-weary crew
And we yearn for the wide open sea
If a man's got some pluck and a bit of good luck
And a love for a land that's still wild
Throw your lot in like me with the old HBC
It's no place for the meek and the mild

And the piper will play at the end of the day
For the men of the good Hudson's Bay

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Bound Down For Newfoundland

On St. Patrick's Day the 17th, from New York we set sail
Kind fortune it did favour us with a sweet and a pleasant gale
We bore away from Amerikay, the wind being off the land
And with courage brave, we ploughed the waves, bound down for Newfoundland

Now when three days out to our surprise, our captain he fell sick
In short he was not able, to take his turn on deck
The fever raged which made us think, that death was near at hand
So we bore away from Halifax, bound down for Newfoundland

Now at 3 o'clock we sighted a light, that we were glad to see
The smallpox had been raging, that's what it proved to be
At 4 o'clock in the afternoon, as sure as God's command
Oh he passed away off Arichat, bound down for Newfoundland

All that night long we did lament, for our departed friend
And we were praying unto God, for what had been his end
We prayed that God would guide us, and keep us by his hand
And send us fair winds while at sea, bound down for Newfoundland

______________________________________

Rolling Down To Old Maui
Traditional (popularized by the late Stan Rogers)
Michael Mitchell performs this song on CANADA IS...

It's a damn tough life full of toil and strife
We whalermen undergo
And we won't give a damn when the gale is done
How hard the winds did blow
'Cause we're homeward bound from the Arctic ground
With a good ship taut and free
And we won't give a damn when we drink our rum
With girls of Old Maui.

CHORUS:
Rolling down to Old Maui me boys
Down to Old Maui
We're homeward bound from the Arctic ground
Rolling down to Old Maui.

Once more we sail with the northerly gale
Through the ice and wind and rain
Them coconut fronds, them tropical lands
We soon shall see again
Six hellish months we've passed away
On the cold Kamchatka Sea
But now we're bound from the Arctic ground
Rolling down to Old Maui

Once more we sail with the northerly gale
Towards our island home
Our mainmast sprung our whaling done
And we ain't got far to roam
Our stun's'l bones is carried away
What care we for that sound
A living gale is after us
Thank God we're homeward bound.

How soft the breeze through the island trees
Now the ice is far astern
Them native maids, them tropical glades
Is a waiting our return
Even now their big brown eyes look out
Hoping some fine day to see
Our baggy sails running 'fore the gales
Rolling down to Old Maui.

_______________________________________________

Star Of Logy Bay

Ye ladies and ye gentlemen, I pray you lend an ear
While I locate the residence of a lovely charmer fair
The curling of her yellow locks first stole my heart away
And her place of habitation is down in Logy Bay

It was on a summer's evening, this little place I found
I met her aged father, who did me sore confound
Saying: "If you address my daughter, I'll send her far away
And she never will return again, while you're in Logy Bay"

How could you be so cruel as to part me from my love
Her tender heart beats in her breast as constant as a dove
Oh Venus was no fairer, nor the lovely month of May
May heaven above shower down its love, on the star of Logy Bay

'Twas on the very next morning he went to St. John's town
And engaged for her a passage in a vessel outward bound
He robbed me of my heart's delight, and sent her far away
And he left me here downhearted for the star of Logy Bay

Oh now I'll go a-roaming, I can no longer stay
I'll search the wild world over in every country
I'll search in vain through France and Spain, likewise Americay
'Till I will sight my heart's delight, the star of Logy Bay

Now to conclude and finish, the truth to you I'll tell
Between Torbay and Outer Cove, is there my love did dwell
The finest girl e're graced our isle, so every one did say
May heaven above send down its love, on the star of Logy Bay

_______________________________

Squid-Jiggin Ground

Oh this is the place where the fishermen gather
In oilskins and boots and cape anns battened down
All sizes of figures with squid lines and jiggers
They congregate here on the squid-jiggin ground

Some are working their jiggers while others are yarning
There's some standing up and there's more lying down
While all kinds of fun, jokes and tricks are begun
As they wait for the squid on the squid-jiggin ground

There's men of all ages and boys in the bargain
There's old Billy Cave and there's young Raymond Brown
There's a red ranting Tory out here in a dory
A-running down squires in the squid-jiggin ground

There's men from the harbour; there's men from the tickle
In all kinds of motor boats, green, grey and brown
Right yonder is Bobby and with him is Nobby
He's chawin hard tack on the squid-jiggin ground

God bless my sou'wester, there's skipper John Chaffey
He's the best hand at squid-jiggin here I'll be bound
Hello! What's the row? Why he's jiggin one now
The very first squid on the squid-jiggin ground

The man with the whiskers is old Jacob Steele
He's getting well up, but he's still pretty sound
While Uncle Bob Hawkins wears six pairs of stockings
Whenever he's out on the squid-jiggin ground

Holy smoke, what a scuffle, all hands are excited
'Tis a wonder to me that there's nobody drowned
There's a bustle, confusion, a wonderful hustle
They're all jiggin squids on the squid-jiggin ground

Says Bobby "The squids are on top of the water
I just got me jiggers about one fathom down
But a squid in the boat squirted right down his throat
And he's swearing like mad on the squid-jiggin ground

There's poor Uncle Billy, his whiskers are splattered
With spots of the squid juice that's flying around
One poor little boy got it right in the eye
But they don't give a darn on the squid-jiggin ground

Now if ever you feel inclined to go squiddin
Leave your white shirts and collars behind in the town
And if you get cranky without your silk hanky
You'd better steer clear of the squid-jiggin ground

(The squid is a cuttlefish used as bait. It moves in along the Newfoundland coast from August
to October and fishermen head out with their jiggers - fish hooks, to catch them in dorys)

_________________________________________________________

The Ryans and the Pittmans

We'll rant and we'll roar like true Newfoundlanders
We'll rant and we'll roar on deck and below
Until we see bottom inside the two sunkers
When straight through the channel, to Toslow we'll go

My name it is Robert, they call me Bob Pittman
I sail in the Ino with skipper Tom Brown
I'm bound to have Dolly, or Biddy, or Molly
As soon as I'm able to plank the cash down

I'm a son of a seacook and a cook in a trader
I can dance, I can sing, I can reef the mainboom
I can handle a jigger, and cuts a fine figure
When ever I gets in a boat's standing room

If the voyage is good then this fall I will do it
I wants two pounds ten for a ring and a priest
A couple of dollars for clean shirts and collars
And a handful of coppers to make up a feast

There's plump little Polly, her name is Goldworthy
There's John Coady's Kitty and Mary Tibbou
There's Clara from Brule and young Martha Foley
But the nicest of all is my girl from Toslow

Farewell and adieu to ye, fair one of Valem
Farewell and adieu to ye, girls in the cove
I'm bound to the westward to the wall with the hole in
I'll take her to Toslow, the wild world to rove

Farewell and adieu to ye, girls of St. Kyrans
Of Paradise and Presque, Big and Little Bona
I'm bound unto Toslow to marry sweet Biddy
And if I don't do so, I'm afraid of her da

_____________________________________

The Greenland Whale Fisheries

In eighteen hundred and seventy four, of March the eighteenth day
We hoisted our colours to the top of the mast
And for Greenland bore away, brave boys, and for Greenland bore away

The lookout on the mainmast he stood, his spyglass in his hand
'There's a whale, there's a whale, there's a whalefish,' he cried
'And he blows at every span, brave boys, and he blows at every span'

The captain stood on the quarter deck, the ice was in his eye
'Overhaul, overhaul, let your jib sheets fall
And go put your boats to sea, brave boys, and go put your boats to sea'

The boats were lowered and the men put out, the whale was full in view
Resolved, resolved was each whalerman bold
For to steer where the whalefish blew, brave boys, for to steer where the whalefish blew

The harpoon struck and the line paid out, with a single flourish of his tail
He capsized our boat and we lost five men
And we did not catch that whale, brave boys, and we did not catch that whale

The losin' of them five jolly men, it grieved our captain sore
But the losin' of that sperm whale fish
Ot it grieved him ten times more, brave boys, oh it grieved him ten times more

'Up anchor now,' our captain he cried, 'For the winter stars do appear
And it's time we left this cold country
And for the homeland we did steer, brave boys, and for the homeland we did steer

Well Greenland is a barren land, a land that bears no green
Where there's ice and snow and the whalefishes blow
And the daylight's seldom seen, brave boys, and the daylight's seldom seen

______________________________________________

Feller From Fortune

Oh there's lots o' fish in Bonavist Harbour
Lots of fish right in around here
Boys and girls are fishing together
Forty-five from Carbonnear

CHORUS:
Oh catch a-hold this one, catch a-hold that one
Swing around this one, swing around she
Dance around this one, dance around that one
Diddle-dum this one, diddle dum dee

Oh, Sally got a bouncin' new baby
Father said that he didn't care
Because he like the feller from Fortune
What was down here fishin' last year

Oh, Sally goes to church every Sunday
Not to sing nor for to hear
But to see the feller from Fortune
What was down here fishin' last year

_________________________________________________________________________________

 

About Michael Mitchell

Born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, Michael Mitchell has lived a fascinating life that included a 24-year stint in the Canadian military, from which he retired in the rank of Major. Much of that time was spent as a reserve or full-time member of the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada, perhaps the most famous Scottish regiment in the world. His career was so distinguished that the Governor General of Canada awarded him the Order of Military Merit in the class of Officer. This award merits a ranking one level higher than Member of the Order of Canada. When he wasn't working full-time in the armed forces, Michael pursued a career in banking, sales and marketing, and personnel consulting before pursuing his true calling, in the early 1980's : music.
Michael has become such a fixture on the Canadian music scene that his Canada is for Kids concerts have become one of the most popular school performing arts programs in Canada, with more than 250 shows booked every year. His repertoire is distinctly Canadian, and includes Something to Sing About, Canada Is, The Log Driver's Waltz, Alberta Bound, and the Canuck version of This Land is Your Land, as well as his own popular compositions such as Canada in My Pocket, Little Trees, and Fly High.
Learn more about Michael and his music at Michael-Mitchell.ca

Many thanks to Michael Mitchell for sharing his songs and commentary.
© Michael Mitchell. All rights reserved.





 

 

 
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