Farewell to Nova Scotia

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This article is about the Canadian folk song. For the Battlefield Band album, see Farewell to Nova Scotia (album).

"Farewell to Nova Scotia" is a popular folk song from Nova Scotia of unknown authorship. Versions of the song were collected by folklorist Helen Creighton, first in 1933 from Ann Greenough in Petpeswick, Nova Scotia, and then from other singers in surrounding communities along the province's Eastern Shore.[1] It is believed to have been written just prior to or during the First World War. "Farewell to Nova Scotia" brings the listener back to an age when Nova Scotia was renowned for "wooden ships and iron men". The song appears in the Penguin Book of Canadian Folk Songs. In 1808 a Glasgow newspaper printed "The Soldier's Adieu", attributed to Robert Tannahill. It has several lines and phrases in it that suggest it was a source of inspiration for the song. The song is catalogued as Roud Folk Song Index No. 384.


Farewell[n 1] to Nova Scotia, the sea-bound coast[n 2],
may your mountains dark and dreary[n 3] be.
For when I am far away on the briny ocean tossed,
Will you ever heave a sigh or a wish for me?

The sun was setting in the west,
The birds were singing on every tree.
All nature seemed inclined to rest
But still there was no rest for me.

I grieve to leave my native land,
I grieve to leave my comrades all,
And my aging parents whom I've always loved so dear,
And the bonnie, bonnie lass[n 4] that I do adore.

I have three brothers and they are at rest,
Their arms are folded on their chest.
But a poor simple sailor just like me,
Must be tossed and turned in the deep dark sea.

The drums they do beat and the wars to alarm,[n 5]
The captain calls, I must obey.
So farewell, farewell to Nova Scotia's charms,
For it's early in the morning and I'm far, far away.


  1. ^ 'Farewell', in some renditions, is sung "fare-thee-well"
  2. ^ "Sea-bound coast" has also been sung as "sea-bound shore(s)" and "may your mountains" has been sung as "let your mountains".
  3. ^ 'dreary' is often pronounced "/drɪəraɪ/" (drear-i)
  4. ^ 'lass' is sometimes sung "lassie" or (according to the singer's preference) "lad" or "laddie"
  5. ^ "The drums they do beat and the wars to alarm" is sometimes sung "The drums they do beat the wars' alarm" or "The drums they do beat for the wars to alarm", meaning that the drums are beating a call to arms


Both the tune and lyrics are public domain, and many artists have released recordings of "Farewell to Nova Scotia", including Gordon Lightfoot, Stan Rogers, The Irish Rovers, Ryan's Fancy, Ian and Sylvia Tyson, Wolf Creek Session, Anne Murray, Touchstone Stompin' Tom Connors, the Celtic punk band Real McKenzies, Schooner Fare, Wicked Tinkers, Battlefield Band, Alex Beaton, Donner Party Reunion, Dan Zanes, Moist, 70s/80s Irish band Oisin, Sons of Maxwell, as well as the Gaelic folk trio Na h-Òganaich on their album Scot-Free. It was recorded by the Czech group, Asonance, with the title of "Nové Skotsko" on their album "Čarodějnice z Amesbury." The Halifax CBC TV show "Singalong Jubilee" used Catherine McKinnon's version as the title theme.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.helencreighton.org/collection/NSsong/

External links[edit]