Coal Mining Tradition: 'S E Ceap Breatainn/Down Deep In A Coal Mine

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About this Song

These songs have long been performed as a medley by The Men of the Deeps. In the version provided here, only the chorus for 'S e Ceap Breatainn and the chorus and a single version for Down Deep In A Coal Mine are sung. 'S e Ceap Breatainn, formally known as Òran Do Cheap Breatainn, was written by Dan Alex MacDonald. Down Deep In A Coal Mine is a traditional song that was collected by George Korson. Here we provide you with the lyrics for the medley version and also include a full set of lyrics for each song, including the English translation of the original Gaelic.

This version is from a live recording of the Men of the Deeps on March 25, 1968, when they performed with the University Singers at Holy Angels High School auditorium. Francis H. Stevens of the Cape Breton Post reviewed the show the following day saying, "[they] gave vocal evidence of the beginning of a great tradition. There cannot be any doubt about it." This archival recording can be found on T-062 at The Beaton Institute.

'S E Ceap Breatainn/Down Deep in a Coal Mine, 1968. The Men of the Deeps. T-062. Beaton Institute, Cape Breton University.

About the Artists

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.

Lyrics - Medley

'S E Ceap Breatainn Chorus x 3

'S e Ceap Breatainn tìr mo ghràidh,
Tìr nan craobh 's nam beanntan àrd;
'S e Ceap Breatainn tìr mo ghràidh,
Tìr as àille leinn air thalamh.

Down Deep In A Coal Mine Chorus:

Down deep in a coal mine underneath the ground,
Where a gleam of sunshine never can be found;
Digging dusky diamonds all the season 'round,
Down deep in a coal mine underneath the ground.

1. So cheer up lads, and make ye much of ev'ry joy ye can,
But let your mirth be always such as best becomes a man.
However fortune turns about we'll still be jovial souls
For what would Canada be without the lads that look for coal.

Repeat Down Deep In A Coal Mine Chorus

Lyrics - 'S E Ceap Breatainn

Chorus:
'S e Ceap Breatainn tìr mo ghràidh,
Tìr nan craobh 's nam beanntan àrd;
'S e Ceap Breatainn tìr mo ghràidh,
Tìr as àille leinn air thalamh.

1. Àit' as maisich tha fon ghrèin,
Smeòraich seinn air bhàrr nan geug;
Gòbhlain-gaoithe cluich ri chèil,
'S an nead glèidhte fo na ceangail.

2. Feasgar foghair àm an fheòir,
Nuair a dhùineadh oirnn na neòil;
Ceò na mara tighinn 'n a thòrr,
'S e 'n a sgleò air bhàrr nam beannaibh.

3. Àm a' gheamhraidh, àm an fhuachd,
Àm nam bainnsean, àm nan luadh;
Chluinnte gillean air cleith-luaidh,
'S gruagaich le guth cruaidh 'g an leantainn.

4. Am Framboise fhuair mi m'àrach òg,
Ann an nàbachd Chlann MhicLeòid;
'S tric bha sinn ri mir' is spòrs,
Làithean sòlasach nach maireann.

5. Chan urrainn dhòmh-sa leth dhuibh ìnns',
Na tha mhaisealachd 's an tìr;
Stadaidh mi bhon tha mi sgìth,
Beannachd leibh is oidhche mhath leibh.

Translation

Chorus:
Cape Breton is the land of my love,
The land of trees and high mountains.
Cape Breton is the land of my love,
To us the most beautiful land on earth.

1. The most beautiful place under the sun,
Thrushes singing on the tips of the branches,
Swallows playing with one another,
Their nests secure under the rafters.

2. On an autumn evening at hay-making time,
When the clouds close in upon us,
As the sea mist comes in banks,
Spreading a film over the peaks of the mountains.

3. Winter-time, time of cold,
Time of weddings, time of milling frolics;
Young men would be heard at the milling table,
With maidens supporting them with clear voices.

4. I was reared in my youth in Framboise,
In the neighbourhood of the Clan MacLeod;
We were often playful and joyful,
Happy days that are no more.

5. I cannot describe to you
Half of the land's beauty.
I will conclude because I am tired;
Blessings be with you and goodnight.

Lyrics - Down Deep In A Coal Mine

Chorus:
Down deep in a coal mine underneath the ground,
Where a gleam of sunshine never can be found;
Digging dusky diamonds all the season 'round,
Down deep in a coal mine underneath the ground.

1. I am a jovial collier lad, and blithe as blithe can be;
For let the times be good or bad, they're all the same to me.
'Tis little of the world I know and care less for its ways,
For where the dog star never glows, I wear away my days.

2. My hands are horny, hard and black with working in the vein,
And like the clothes up on my back, my speech is rough and plain.
Well, if I stumble with my tongue, I've one excuse to say:
'Tis not the collier's heart that's wrong, 'tis the head that goes astray.

3. At ev'ry shift, be it soon or late, I haste my bread to earn;
And anxiously my kindred wait and watch for my return.
For death that levels all alike, what e'er their rank may be,
Amid the fire and damp may strike and fling his darts at me.

4. How little do the great ones care who sit at home secure
what hidden dangers colliers dare, what hardships they endure.
The very fires their mansions boast, to cheer themselves and wives
Mayhap were kindled at the cost of jovial colliers' lives.

5. Then cheer up lads, and make ye much of ev'ry joy ye can,
But let your mirth be always such as best becomes a man.
However fortune turns about we'll still be jovial souls
For what would Canada be without the lads that look for coal.