MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada
Vincent Ledwell and his wife, Monica O'Grady, ca 1975. Courtesy of Dr. Gerald Pocius, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Vincent Ledwell and his wife, Monica O'Grady, ca 1975. Courtesy of Dr. Gerald Pocius, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Vincent Ledwell of Calvert

James Vincent Ledwell, known as Vincent, was born in Argentia, Placentia Bay, in January 1888 and his wife, Monica O'Grady, was born the following year in St. John's. Vince's family moved to Calvert (Caplin Bay) when he was a child. His great-grandfather was Robert Swain. The Swains were one of the first families to settle Calvert and had a reputation as boat builders, a profession that Vincent also followed.

When Dr. Gerald Pocius visited the Ledwells in the 1970s, Vince explained that because his parents were known as singers and his mother as an accordion player, "Vince was forced to assume the identity of singer mainly because of his parents' roles as singers. To a great extent, his status was ascribed" (1976: 11). Vince worked in St. John's for a year when he was in his twenties and he met Monica there. They were married in 1916 and had two sons, Cecil and Robert, and a daughter, Madonna. Monica died in the 1970s.

Monica's repertoire comes largely from a period of time when she worked at Reed's Tobacco Factory where "many songs were sung during the day's work" (1976: 111). Later she learned many of Vince's songs and often helped him if he forgot the words. She did not record for Leach and always took a secondary role to her husband, in keeping with the norms of being female in her community and time.

"Concerts" and "times" were frequent in Caplin Bay between 1916 and the 1930s. Later, Vince recorded for a CBC broadcast in 1969.

Vince also worked with Memorial University folklorist, Dr. Gerald Pocius, during his 1974-1978 study of vernacular architecture in Calvert. At the time, Vince was Calvert's oldest living resident and the town's historian. He was a skilled carpenter. When Pocius made his study, Vincent was still able to clear land for potatoes. He died in 1982.

Leach collected seven songs from Vincent: "Church Cove Song," "Stand Up and Sing," "Shady Brookside," "Sweet Forget-Me-Not," "White Man Let Me Go," "Battleship Maine," and "Erewanna."