Songs were composed within the aesthetic bounds of the old tradition and also dealt with New World subject matter. They conveyed love and pride of place, the deaths of outstanding persons, humour, satire, religious devotion, drinking, and the chronicling of local events and historical material. Village poets ‘made’ songs about local contemporary events and characters. These songs were addressed to a local audience and although they may sometimes have served a moral function were mostly for amusement. The poet was both chronicler and critic.
For Nova Scotia Gaels, livelihoods were derived from the land and sea. Communal co-operation such as milling and spinning frolics lightened the labour of individuals while maintaining linguistic, cultural and social bonds. Men and women would join together to assist their neighbours while singing songs appropriate to the task at hand. In this way large jobs, such as building a bran or school, would be completed quickly.
Gaelic Cape Breton can boast the retention of a vast corpus of work songs. Singing, often communal singing, helped to lighten the burden of any heavy or repetitive work. The origin of many of these can be traced back hundreds of years. These included lullabies, sailing songs, milking songs, spinning songs and òrain luadhaidh or milling songs. A luadhadh or milling frolic was quite a spirited event and was organized to shrink the homespun cloth when it came off of the loom. In Scotland, the luadhadh was traditionally women’s work, but the custom evolved in Cape Breton to include men in the work and singing.
*YouTube clip from An Drochaid Eadarainn www.androchaid.ca