Last week in Waterford City Hall, Canadian Ambassador to Ireland, Kevin Vickers along with Mayor of Waterford District, John Hearne, launched a newly Irish-written song, The Coast of Labrador, to mark this year’s CANADA 150, commemorating the 150th year of the Confederation of Canada. The Coast of Labrador is the work of internationally renowned songwriter, Brendan Graham, and Tipperary composer, Denis Carey. The song was given its premiere performance by Irish singer, Seán Keane in an event organised by Waterford Civic Trust, in association with Waterford City and County Council.
The Coast of Labrador is set during the nineteenth-century, a period of extensive emigration to Labrador, Newfoundland and the eastern shores of Canada from the South East of Ireland. It tells the story of a young Waterford fisherman who emigrates to Labrador, finding a new life there with a local Inuit girl. He brings with him his sliotar and hurling stick and teaches his son to play ‘Hurling on Ice’, the forerunner to ‘Hockey on Ice’.
The song is a reminder of the long historical links between Ireland’s South Eastern shore and and Canada’s Eastern shore based on commercial activities which were well established by the end of the Eighteenth Century. Between February and March of each year, ships from the ports of south-west England heading for the rich cod fisheries of Newfoundland arrived at Waterford to take on supplies and passengers. Many people from the South East went to Newfoundland (Talamh an Éisc) in search of employment. Such was their impact that in 1842 Newfoundland was called ‘Transatlantic Ireland’, with one observer stating that ‘Newfoundland is merely Waterford parted from the sea’.
Songwriter Graham describes The Coast of Labrador, as ‘a further acknowledgement of the great contribution of the peoples of the Déise area to the growth of their adopted country of Canada and the strong historical and cultural connections between the South East of Ireland, and Newfoundland and Labrador’.
The Coast of Labrador by Seán Keane will be available on iTunes at the end of June.