Gaelic Workshops

Mary Jane offers a variety of Gaelic related workshops. They range from language classes to performance / lecture sessions.

An exploration of the Gaelic Song Tradition in Nova Scotia with Mary Jane Lamond

Still today, although the Gaelic language in Nova Scotia is under great threat, one often hears Gaelic song at gatherings, voices raised together, singing choruses of songs.

There is a Gaelic proverb that says, “A sharing of gold is but brief but a sharing of song is forever.” This proverb encapsulates the attitude of the Gael towards one of his primary art forms, song.

Of all the traditions of Europe, the Scottish Gaelic tradition is unique in the extent to which song was a part of everyday life. The Gaels had a song for almost every occasion. Songs for reaping crops, rowing boats, milling the cloth, milking cows, just to name some examples. Songs accompanied every form of work and household chore. From the complicated meters of the formal bard to the simple but heartfelt song of an immigrant or a humorous song about a neighbour, it is the poetry of the Gael that tells us about his attitudes, views, and history.


Beginning in the late eighteenth century, tens of thousands of Scottish Gaelic Highlanders began to arrive on the shores of Nova Scotia. Forced by economic and political circumstances in Scotland to leave their homes they came to settle in Eastern Nova Scotia. For the most part they had very little in terms of material wealth but they did bring with them a wealth of poetry, music, dance and storytelling.

The extent of the Gaelic song tradition is witnessed by the vast number of songs collected by just a handful of collectors. Just one collector, Dr. John Shaw, collected over 1,000 songs from just 54 informants.

In her presentation, Mary Jane Lamond leads participants through the background of Scottish Gaelic song in Nova Scotia.

The following topics are examined and example songs taught:

1. A brief history of immigration and settlement patterns of the Nova Scotia Gael.

2. Sharing of song vs performance of song in the Gaelic tradition.

3. The extent and depth of the song tradition.

4. Types of song in the Gaelic tradition:

a. Work songs( eg: Orain luaidh, milking, spinning, lullabies)
b. Love songs
c. Immigrants laments
d. Humorous
e. Songs in praise of place
f. Oran Mhor ( Eight line poetry)
g. Mouth music

5. Nova Scotia bards.

6. Published resources and taped collections.

Download printable Gaelic Workshop page (PDF).