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Mentioned in song
Lisa Pendergast
Dr. Ursula Kelly, Faculty of Education Professor

A member of the Faculty of Education might be on the verge of discovering the next “hit” in the Canadian logging song genre in her latest research project.

Considering the enduring reach of the Canadian classic, The Log Driver’s Waltz, it’s a musical category ripe for the picking.

Dr. Ursula Kelly is researching occupational songs of the logging industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. Her project, Mentioned in Song: Song Traditions of the Loggers of Newfoundland and Labrador, includes producing a CD of both restored archival songs and new arrangements of logging songs and an accompanying booklet that further describes how song fits into the logging history and culture of our province. The booklet also includes a brief history of logging and song lyrics.

Dr. Kelly has collected more than 70 songs, 60 of which were written by and about Newfoundland and Labrador loggers and are housed in the Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore Archives (MUNFLA). In partnership with Drs. Beverly Diamond and Meghan Forsyth of the Research Centre for Music, Media and Place (MMaP), these little known songs will become available to the public.

Dr. Kelly has a background in literacy and language education. In this research, she is interested in how historical literacy practices represent the social history, cultural practices and identities of loggers.

Dr. Kelly’s goal is to recognize and to value the cultural contributions of loggers. Her findings demonstrate that loggers used various practices to share their insightful and often critical perspectives by using song and poetry to discuss their day-to-day work.

“Loggers came from many different backgrounds,” she said. “These songs tell the stories of loggers and the varied cultures – linguistic, religious, indigenous and settler -- of which they were a part. Their work was hard and their cultural contribution immense, yet unacknowledged.” 

Most of the songs were composed and sung by Newfoundland and Labrador loggers in the first half of the 20th century but were not widely circulated or well known outside of the communities in which they were sung. Some others are recognized, such as The Badger Drive, Twin Lakes and Gerry Ryan. A smaller number of the songs came from other logging provinces and states such as Michigan, Maine, New Brunswick, Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.

The title of this project, Mentioned in Song, refers directly to lyrics from the Newfoundland folk song, The Badger Drive, 1912, by John V. Devine: “There's one class of men in this country/That never is mentioned in song.”  

Mentioned in Song is one of the CDs in MMaP’s Back on Track series. The goal of the series is to find rare and previously unheard music and folklore and communicate them to a wider audience. The logging songs will be shared with the communities from which they originated upon release of the CD and booklet this coming fall. The project was made possible with support from The Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development.

For a song sample from the CD, click here to listen to The Foresters’ Song as arranged and sung by Pamela Morgan. This song is about the Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit, the 3rd Inverness (Newfoundland) Battalion that included more than 3,500 Newfoundland loggers who worked in the logging camps of Scotland during the Second World War to support Britain’s war efforts. The Foresters' Song was first collected in Cape Broyle by MacEdward Leach. Versions have also been collected by musicians Andrew O'Brien and Olive Walsh. It is believed that the song was co-written by Pat and Jim Carew, both of whom were from the Southern Shore of Newfoundland and served in the Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit.

Jul 8th, 2014

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