Scottish Songs in Canada: MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada

While digital archives in Scotland hold many riches of traditional music, the Scots, of course, took (and still take) their music with them around the world.  Margaret Bennett, whose life of song collecting has led to periods living on both sides of the Atlantic, has brought my attention to this archive curated by the Memorial University of Newfoundland in St John’s, Canada:

Leach (1897-1967) was involved in foundational fieldwork surveying literature, folklore and also music.  He was himself a native of Illinois, but like many other North Americans in the mid 20th century, of whom the most famous was Alan Lomax, interested himself in the stories and tales of the diasporic British isles, as well as the unique cultures developed as these peoples settled in various parts of north America.  Nova Scotia had a particular place in his heart, and his collections from Cape Breton and Newfoundland are the focus of this website.

Songs recorded in the archive include work songs of land and sea, psalm precenting, and ballads about homelands and love, that reflect patterns of life found in the dispersed Scottish Gaelic communities on the West side of the Atlantic.  Well worth a look – and a listen.

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