'Brave Wolfe'

The first and one of the finest of the native Anglo-Canadian ballads, 'Brave Wolfe' describes the British victory on the Plains of Abraham in 1759. Composed soon after the battle, it seems to have been patterned on an old British love lament called 'The Blacksmith'. It circulated widely throughout the British colonies, appearing in many New England broadsides and songbooks of the 18th and 19th centuries, and survived in oral tradition in both Newfoundland and Nova Scotia well into the 20th century. Elisabeth Greenleaf, who collected it in Newfoundland in 1929, described it as a martial and moving song whose 'stately measures linger in one's memory with some of its striking lines'. W. Roy Mackenzie in his book Ballads and Sea Songs From Nova Scotia (Cambridge, Mass 1928) testifieds to the fervor with which it was sung in Nova Scotia, and it was sung in the same mood in Newfoundland. It was first published in the Mackenzie book and is also in Greenleaf and Mansfield's Ballads and Sea Songs of Newfoundland (Cambridge, Mass 1933), Fowke and Johnston's Folk Songs of Canada (Waterloo 1954), and on a recording of the same title (Waterloo CS-3). Alan Mills sings it on Canada's Story in Song (Folk 3000) and Tom Kines sings it on Canadian Folk Songs: A Centennial Collection (9-RCA/RCI CS-100-2/5-ACM 39 CD). Other recorded versions have been performed by harpist Judy Loman (CBC SM-167) and Ian and Sylvia (Tyson) (Vanguard VSD-23-24). 'Brave Wolfe' is sometimes called 'Bold Wolfe,' but there is also another song, usually entitled 'Bold Wolfe' or 'General Wolfe,' which describes the same battle; it is better known in England than in North America. The latter song has been recorded by Rick Avery and Judy Greenhill (J & R JR-001) and on Folkways FM-2005. Both songs are included in Singing Our History by Fowke and Mills (Toronto 1984).