MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada

Cape Breton Homeland Songs

Inverness beach: photo by Stacey MacLeanThis type of song may be considered relatively modern in terms of its prominence in the Gaelic tradition and often relates to population movements from the Highlands in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. While earlier songs may contrast the love of one Gaelic-speaking area compared to another, more recent compositions extol the virtues of a Gaelic homeland compared with a less traditional, culturally different one. The Gaelic language or Gael for that matter may be symbolic of the homeland itself.

While many homeland songs may also be considered emigrant songs, they may also express the bard's newfound appreciation for his/her community after having travelled and then returned. It would make sense then that many Nova Scotian bards praise their own communities, as most if not all had either spent time in different cultures or at least been aware of them.

A related form of this song called Tàmailt may possess many of the characteristics of the homeland song but also be a criticism of a place (ie. A Choille Ghruamaich). Songs of this type may sometimes be found to have preserved several of the classical forms of versification and syllabic structure (as in the case of A Choille Ghruamaich).

Owing to their simplicity of language and rhyme scheme of many homeland songs, they are not generally regarded to be great forms of literary art. Nevertheless, many of these songs remain as anthems in Nova Scotian and indeed Scottish communities, reflecting group identity and an awareness of social change.

A Choille Ghruamaich (The Gloomy Forest)

MacIsaac, Angus

Am Bràighe (The Braes)

MacKinnon, Hector and Alex

Bithibh Aotrom 's Togaibh Fonn (Be Merry and Raise a Song)


C'àit' an Diugh a Bheil Mo Dhìlsean? (Where Today are My Kinsmen?)

MacKinnon, Hector and Alex

Carson a Mhol Thu Mhòrthir Mhosach? (Why Did You Praise the Horrid Mainland)

Patterson, Catherine

Cha Mhòr Nach Cho Math Dhuinn Sguir a Bhi Strì (It's Just as Well That We Stop Striving)

MacLeod, John

Eilean an Fhraoich (Island of Heather)

Matheson, John

Eilean Ceap Breatainn 'se Eilean Mo Run (Cape Breton Island is the Island I love)

MacLeod, Norman Kenny

'S e Ceap Breatainn Tìr Mo Ghràidh (Cape Breton is the Land of My Love)

Campbell, John


Milling Songs | Psalm Precenting | Homeland Songs | Love Songs | Locally Composed Songs | Other Songs

photo: Inverness Beach.