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Music Cape Breton's Diversity in Unity

Mining New Aberdeen Government Store

New Aberdeen Government Store is a humorous song about a government-owned liquor store that used to exist in New Aberdeen. Supposedly, it was written by two schoolboys after the store was built and is similar to several songs with this title that were collected by Helen Creighton.

This field recording was collected by Ronnie MacEachern in 1978.

New Aberdeen Government Store, 1978. Amby Thomas. T-1066. Beaton Institute, Cape Breton University.

Amby Thomas

In 1906, Amby Thomas was born in Deep Cove, a small Cape Breton fishing community between Gabarus and Louisbourg. In his early years, Amby attended ceilidhs where local and traditional folk songs were sung. He was especially interested in songs by local songwriter Lauchie MacNeil.

Amby lived and attended school in the village until 1916, when a local priest noticed he had a vision problem. He suggested that Amby move to Halifax to study at the School for the Blind. He attended the school until June 1919, when he moved back to Deep Cove to finish school.

After completing his studies, he worked in a lobster factory in Kennington Cove and then as a fisherman with his father until 1952. During this time, he also farmed near his family’s home and cut timber in the nearby woods that was used in coal mines in the area. From 1939-1945, he worked at the naval base in Point Edward, where he was responsible for railroading and other jobs at the base.

In 1967, the government forced Amby and the other residents of Deep Cove to move from their land so that the Fleur de Lis trail could be built. In 1969, he married Mary and moved to Sydney.

His interest in local and traditional folk songs led him to work with singer-songwriter and collector Ronald MacEachern to record the lyrics and sheet music for some of his songs. Together they released the book, Songs and Stories from Deep Cove, Cape Breton. As a result of their collaboration, these songs became accessible to future generations interested in learning more about Cape Breton’s rich songwriting tradition.

New Aberdeen Government Store

Collected by Ron MacEachern from the singing of Amby Thomas
Tune: “Cod Liver Oil”
From the collection of Ron MacEachern.

1. Come all jolly miners of New Aberdeen,
Who boozers are now and who boozers have been,
And I’ll make your hearts glad tho’ they’re now sick and sore,
When I sing you a song of the government store.

2. Now for a long time as you very well know
To the town of Glace Bay you have all had to go,
Though the snow it fell fast and the rain it did pour,
To purchase your booze at the government store.

3. Now near the Hub crossing at New Aberdeen
A nice little building erected has been
Where all kinds of drinks you can buy in galore,
They call it New Aberdeen Government Store.

4. Though your children be hungry with nothing to eat,
No clothes for their bodies, no shoes on their feet;
If you have a dollar perhaps you’ll have more
Then spend it in booze at the government store.

5. And there by example you quickly can teach,
Your own boys to drink it you don’t need to ?
And when you are gone from this life evermore
They’ll take their dad’s place at the government store.

6. And when you are old and too feeble and blind
To work for a living down in the coal mine,
A pension you’ll get till life’s journey is o’er
From the profits they make at the government store.

7. Success to the beer and the whiskey so fine,
The rum and the gin and also the wine.
Drink as much as would fill the big lakes of Bras d’Or,
Singing hip hip hurray for the government store.