MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada

Cape Breton Milling Songs

Milling FrolicMilling, or Waulking as it known in Scotland, was a method of fulling newly woven cloth, shrinking the nap so that the cloth might be warmer when made into clothing or blankets. The cloth was first sewn at the ends so as to create a circle, then placed on a wooden table and dampened with a mixture of soap and water. As many as twelve men and women might sit around the table and with their hands, beat the cloth to the rhythm of a song. It should be noted that in Scotland, milling was performed exclusively by women, while Nova Scotians included men and their own attendant repertoires.

Although the structure of milling songs may vary, as well as styles of beating the cloth and participation, one aspect remains constant and serves as a defining characteristic of the genre, that is the solo presentation of the verses and group participation in the chorus. This chorus is often comprised of two to four lines of vocables, another defining feature of the milling genre. Although tradition bearers in Cape Breton to this day still differentiate between "true" milling songs and those which are simply performed at milling frolics, the long-established presence of non-traditional milling songs in the performance repertoires of Gaelic singers makes the line of generic distinction rather fuzzy.

photo: Milling frolic, Johnstown.

Millings which serve utilitarian purposes have not been performed in Nova Scotia for over fifty years, but simulations of the event remain an integral part of Gaelic culture in the province, engaging the participation of native Gaelic speakers in a time when venues to speak and sing in the language have grown scarce.

An Gille Donn (The Brown-haired Lad)

Gillis, Margaret

An Gille Donn (The Brown-haired Lad)

MacKinnon, Alex

'Bhith gan Cuimhneachadh 's gan Ionndrain (Remembering and Missing Them)

Unidentified

Cha Bhith Mi Buan 's Tu Bhith Bhuam (I Will Not Survive With You Gone)

Macleod, Malcolm Angus

Cha Thrèiginn Fhèin Mo Chruinneag Dhonn (I Would Never Betray My Brown-haired Lass)

Macleod, Malcolm Angus

Dheanainn Sùgradh ris an Nighean Duibh (I Would Frolic with the Dusky maiden)

Carmichael, Hector

Dh'Eirich Mi Moch (I Arose Early)

MacDonald, Angus "The Ridge"

Dh'Eirich Mise Madainn Gruamach (I Arose One Gloomy Morning)

Morrison, Dan

Eilidh Chuain (Helen of the Sea/of Cuan)

Unidentified male singer

Ged a Sheòl Mi air M'Aineol (Although I have sailed to Foreign Places)

Patterson, Catherine

Ho Roinn Horo Bhi Iù O (Vocables)

Gillis, Margaret

Horo Gun Togainn air Hùgan Fhathast (Horo Once More I Would Shout for Joy)

Byrne, Lucy

Hug O Roinn O 'S Mi fo Mhìghean (Hug O Roinn O, I am Sorrowful)

MacNeil, Michael S.

I Iù O Ra Hù O, Gur Tu Mo Nighean Donn Bhòidheach (You Are My Beautiful Brown-haired maiden

MacKinnon, Hector and Others

Illean Bithibh Sùnndach (Boys Be Merry)

Gillis, Margaret

Màili Dhonn Bhòidheach Dhonn (Brown-haired Molly, Lovely Molly)

Unidentified female singer

Nighean Dubh, Nighean Donn (Black-haired maiden, Brown-haired maiden)

Morrison, Dan

O Cha Tèid, Cha Tèid Mi (O I Will Not, I Will Not Go)

MacDonald, Angus "The Ridge"

Oidhche Dhomh 's Mi Siubhal a'Chuain (One Night When I Was Sailing the Seas)

MacAskill, George

Òran Seòlaidh (Sailing Song)

MacAskill, George

'S ann DiLuain Ghabh i'n Cuan (Monday She [the ship] Set Out to Sea)

Gillis, Margaret

'S e Tinneas Thraogh Mo Shlàinte (The Illness Ruined My Health)

MacKinnon, Hector and Alex

S Truagh Nach Robh Mi'n Riochd na h'Eala (It's a Pity That I Had Not the Shape of a Swan)

MacDonald, Angus "The Ridge"

Tha Mo Bhreachdan Dubh fo'n Dìle (My Black Plaid is Soaked)

Macleod, Malcolm Angus

Tha Mo Bhreachdan Dubh fo'n Dìle (My Black Plaid is Soaked)

Morrison, Dan

 

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