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Classic folksongs re-issued by Memorial

By Jeff Green | Nov. 10, 2008

Penning the introduction for Old-Time Songs and Poetry of Newfoundland: Songs of the People From the Days of Our Forefathers was like reliving a part of the past for Dr. Anna Kearney Guigné.

The adjunct professor in the School of Music grew up listening to – and performing – many of the songs in the collection, distributed by businessman and folksong collector Gerald S. Doyle in 1940.


The book was the second in a series of publications issued by the distributor of pharmaceutical and home products, circulated free of charge.

Now, nearly 70 years later, that songbook has been given a second life thanks to Memorial.

It was formally re-issued by the Department of Folklore during a reception last week.

“I’ve always been interested in Gerald S. Doyle songs and from my estimation, this book is probably the most significant for many reasons,” said Dr. Kearney Guigné.

She completed her PhD studies on the collection of songs amassed by Kenneth Peacock, a Canadian ethnomusicologist and composer who began gathering his own folksongs from this province in the early 1950s, passing many of them onto his Newfoundland counterpart.

“This volume of songs would have been the book American soldiers and sailors would have seen,” she explained. “For those coming into Newfoundland and learning about the culture, it was a tangible piece of culture they could take back to the Mainland. Doyle carried out some really interesting work. He would travel around the island and get into the outports and collect songs and then distribute them freely in publications like this one. People would pick up these songs and learn them.”

Dr. Kearney Guigné said the Doyle songbooks offer a snapshot into Newfoundland and Labrador’s culture at a time when residents hadn’t grasped onto their heritage.

She said for many the 1940’s edition is a favourite since it includes songs such as Jack Was Every Inch a Sailor, The Kelligrew’s Soiree, The Ryans and the Pittmans and Anti-Confederation Song.

“You can no longer get the original books,” she noted. “Thanks to the Folklore department the public can. The beauty of this publication is that people are still singing these songs.”

The book has been such a hit it is now going to a second print.

Dr. Kearney Guigné said there has been a huge demand from those looking to purchase the released edition for the holidays.