FAIR TIME AGO

by Stephen Hatfield

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I was asked to write a piece for Lady Cove, a women’s choir from St. John’s led by Kellie Walsh, that would honour the role of women in traditional Newfoundland culture. The result, in a gently dancing slow 6/8, is an interweaving of narratives through an interweaving of solos or soli around the tutti texture. (S.H.)

LYRICS

When I was a girl in Fleur De Lys, 
Growin’ up, growin’ up, no other way to grow.
The men were the ones who went to sea.
When you’re growin’ up there is always something else to know.

When I was a girl in Twillingate,
Growin’ up, growin’ up, no other way to grow.
Her family was a woman’s fate.
When you’re growin’ up there is always something else to know.

When I was a girl in Weslyville,
Cast away, cast away, no other way to go,
The work wouldn’t stop if you were ill.
When you cast away sometimes there’s no place to go.

When I was a girl in Glovertown,
Cast away, cast away, no other way to go,
Her courage was a woman’s crown.
When you cast away sometimes there’s no place else to go.

Now then, we come from Cox’s Cove, 
where our mother’s tales were a treasure trove.
And we’re from Little Harbour Deep.
Mother stayed awake so we could sleep.
And we pray the Lord her soul to keep.

To know the Word you had to read,
but there was never time, and teachers hard to find.
If you were hurt, then you had to bleed.
There was no doctor and there was no cure.

And you’d be damned if you were Catholic,
and you’d be damned if you were Protestant,
and you’d be damned if you disagreed,
for God and England preferred us poor.

Now who would believe those days could be distant?
Now who would believe a fair time ago?

When I was a girl in Harbour Grace,
Growin’ up, growin’ up, no other way to grow.
I knew I was in a changing place.
When you’re growin’ up there is always something else to know.

When I was a girl in Corner Brook,
Growin’ up, growin’ up, no other way to grow.
The sky was worth a second look.
When you’re growin’ up there is always something else to know.

When I was a girl in Baccalieu,
Cast away, cast away, no other way to go,
I knew what I didn’t want to do.
When you cast away sometimes there’s no place else to go.

When I was a girl in Come By Chance,
Cast away, cast away, no other way to go,
I knew how to lead a merry dance.
When you cast away sometimes there’s no place else to go.

Now we come from Portland Creek,
where our mother kept us going week to week.
And we come from Witless Bay,
Where our mother kept us going day to day.
We remember how she bowed to pray.

My mother’s auntie was a nurse.
She worked in Labrador, she died at thirty four.
She’s not the last, I’m not the first.
There is a power when you’re woman born,

When all the Island’s giving birth,
and what we thought we knew,
and what we thought was true 
about the heaven, sea and earth is even truer when it all is gone.

When I was a girl in Burgeo,
saw the sailors, the writers, whalers come and go.
When I was a girl beside the Pond,
oh I would swear I could see from over here and there to beyond,
I could see tomorrow and beyond.

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