Province picks lament for ad campaign

HALIFAX – Nova Scotia has a launched a $7.7-million tourism campaign with a song about its “miserable” shores.

Tourism officials chose an old Gaelic tune sung by Cape Breton performer Mary Jane Lamond for television ads to air in Ontario and New England.

Written by an unknown songwriter in the 1830s, the tune is about Scottish immigrants coming to Nova Scotia. In the last line, the singer says that if she had a boat, she “wouldn’t be oppressed by this miserable land.”

“It’s kind of a desperate song, in some ways it’s a lament. It talks about the pain they felt leaving Scotland and coming to start in a new place,” said Lamond, at Monday’s official campaign launch.

E Horo (What’s on my Mind)

When I stand in the doorway
I see the forest above my head
My eyes begin to weep
My courage is overwhelmed

É ho rò, the subject of my thoughts
Great tonight is my mourning
Ill ù ill ò, I love you deeply
Although I didn’t win you for myself

I had three brothers
Who I will forever recount
It’s a pity that I wasn’t at the quay
When they bid us farewell

When we arrived at the Table
My entire family was there
My sister and brother-in-law
Without a strip of clothing on their backs

A scraped cow’s hide
Fixed on my back
And I was starving with the hue
Of death coming over my face

If I had a creel and a sickle
The low seaweed and my own boat
My children wouldn’t be eating gruel
And I wouldn’t be oppressed by this miserable land

“It does seem ironic, but it is appropriate because it is a song composed in Nova Scotia.”

Tourism Minister Rodney MacDonald defends the use of the song in the tourism campaign, saying it went through extensive focus-group testing.

“We do extensive research to ensure that the people we are attempting to reach to come here to Nova Scotia we are reaching. And this song is doing so,” he said.

The Gaelic tune will not be heard in Nova Scotia. A song by local performer Matt Mays is part of the tourism campaign in the Maritimes. Mays’ song, in English, describes the province as a good place.

Both songs are used as background music in the television ads. Actor John Dunsworth, who plays Mr. Leahy on the show Trailer Park Boys, does the voiceovers.

This year’s tourism marketing campaign is the most extensive one yet, including tv, magazine and online elements. It’s also the first time the province has planned major TV campaigns in Ontario, Quebec and New England.

The province recently announced a $1.4-million campaign to rebrand Nova Scotia as a place to “come to life.” However, that tag line isn’t included in this tourism campaign.