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Music Cape Breton's Diversity in Unity

Mining She Loves Her Miner Lad

In She Loves Her Miner Lad, the woman of the song talks about how her miner lad is a very kind, generous person who stands by his word and possesses a strong work ethic. The song is descended from a long line of Jolly Miner songs which trace their origin to an old Irish ballad, The Bonny Labouring Boy.

She Loves Her Miner Lad. The Men of the Deeps. John C. O’Donnell Tape Collection. Beaton Institute, Cape Breton University.

The Men of the Deeps

The Men of the Deeps is a world-renowned male choral ensemble composed of former coalminers from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Inspired by Glace Bay activist, Mrs. Nina Cohen, and famed Nova Scotia folklorist, Dr. Helen Creighton, The Men of the Deeps was organized in 1966 as part of Cape Breton’s contribution to Canada’s Centennial Year (1967) with the specific aim of encouraging the people of Cape Breton to preserve in song some of the rich folklore of the Island’s coal mining communities.

The ensemble first performed to thousands of people in packed theatres in Sydney, New Waterford, and Glace Bay. Those in attendance were highly impressed with the new choral group, including H.P. MacKeen, the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, who became the patron of the chorus. Concerts were then held at the Isle Royale Hotel, the opening of the Miners’ Museum, the Queen Mother’s visit (1967), and for Expo 67 in Montreal.

In 1976, the group became the first Canadian musical ensemble to tour the Peoples’ Republic of China, after diplomatic relations between the two nations were restored in 1972. Over twenty years later, they travelled to Kosovo to perform on behalf of the United Nations Children’s Fund. The chorus received an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University College of Cape Breton (now Cape Breton University) in 2000. Recent concert tours have brought the choir as far north as the Northwest Territories and as far south as Arizona, Alabama, Florida and the Appalachian coal mining communities of Kentucky, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Since the group’s inception, the musical director has been John C. (Jack) O’Donnell, now Professor Emeritus of music at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.

She Loves Her Miner Lad

Tune: “She’s Like The Swallow”
From the collection of John C. O’Donnell.

1. Bonny’s her lad as he walks down the street
With his hat in his hand, all canny and neat;
His teeth white as ivories, his eyes black as sloughs,
Oh she loves her miner lad, every one knows.

2. Sometimes he has money, sometimes none at all,
But he’ll share what he has, be it ever so small.
No laddie is better, no laddie so kind,
And he’ll stand by his word when he’s spoken his mind.

3. The huntsman’s delight is to blow his loud horn,
And the farmer’s delight is a-reapin’ the corn;
But the miner’s delight is the pick in his hand,
And he’ll claim all the coal that lies under the land.

4. We’ll build him a castle of finest renown
That ladies and masters will never pull down.
The king loves his queen and the emperor the same,
And she loves her miner lad, who can she blame?

Repeat first verse