LYRICS: Cape Breton Farewell

In the first half of the 1800s Cape Breton Island received an influx of 50,000 Highland Scots driven from their homes by the Highland clearances. Cape Breton became the heart of coal mining and steel manufacture for Nova Scotia. Violent mining labor disputes in the 1920s are still recalled, and a strong unionist feeling is part of the culture in the industrial areas. Cape Breton workers have always suffered from a boom-and-bust economy. Fishing, shipbuilding, mining, and steel: each in turn initially provided plenty of welcome employment, and then declined, so young people had to leave home to find work. Perhaps the tourist industry will help end this trend for good. The song also appears on Holdstock and Macleod, Seasoned Songs. (trad. – Nova Scotia)

Late spring, the leaves all green,
There’s sheep on the hillside, there’s birds on the wing.
Over my shoulder the last time I‟m seeing
the old home all weathered and gray.
Chorus:
And I’m leaving for Halifax to see what’s to spare in the way of some work,
and if there’s nothing there it’s Toronto out West, to God only knows where.
But there’s bound to be friends from back home…

We talked till three, my father and me,
and the fiddle tunes flowed like the clear Margaree.
“Never forget who you are, son,” said he,
and I followed my brothers away.
Chorus

One thing I know, wherever I go
my heart’s in Cape Breton, it will always be so.
Whenever the fiddler rosins a bow,
my first and last thoughts are for home.
Chorus

So, hey, it is spring, the leaves all green,
There’s sheep on the hillside, there’s birds on the wing.
Over my shoulder the last time I’m seeing
the old home all weathered and gray.
Chorus:
And I’m leaving for Halifax to see what’s to spare in the way of some work,
and if there’s nothing there it’s Toronto out West, to God only knows where.
But there’s bound to be friends from back home…

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