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James Whitty, interviewed by Edward D. "Sandy" Ives


Scope and Contents

From the Record Group:

MF167.1 consists of interviews conducted by Edward D. "Sandy" Ives on Prince Edward Island between 1969 and 1970, as part of his work to document the folk songs of Prince Edward Island, specifically the songs “made by” Joe Scott, Larry Doyle, and Larry Gorman. Material included in this collection served as source material for Ives’ later publications, Lawrence Doyle: The Farmer-Poet of Prince Edward Island (1971); Larry Gorman: The Man Who Made the Songs (1977); Joe Scott: The Woodman Songmaker (1978); and Drive Dull Care Away: Folksongs from Prince Edward Island (1999). This collection includes recordings of interviews, Ives' field journal, and 17 photographs taken by Ives.


  • Majority of material found within 1955-1970


Conditions Governing Access

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From the Record Group: 203 items

Language of Materials

From the Record Group: English


NA4396 James Whitty, interviewed by Edward D. "Sandy" Ives, Melrose, MA, Feb. 6, 1970. Whitty, age 62, of 45 Naples Rod, Melrose, Massachusetts, provides information about his great uncle Lawrence Doyle’s background and life on P.E.I.; discussion of his songs; some songs recited; also, information about Hughie Lauchlan MacDonald, another songmaker; information about old days on P.E.I.; other songmakers discussed briefly. 61 pp. Recording: mf167_1.1_ives070.02A_cd133_01 - mf167_1.1_ives070.02A_cd133_32, mf167_1.1_ives070.02B_cd134_01 - mf167_1.1_ives070.02B_cd134_23. Time: 01:53:26

Ives' interview notes follow: Interview with James Whitty, of 45 Naples Rod, Melrose, Massachusetts, February 6, 1970. Whitty, age 62, came here from PEI (Farmington) and is brother of Alphonsus and Mary MacIsaac, both of Farmington. Both people had told me he knew a lot about Lawrence Doyle and his songs, and I had been trying to get in touch with him for a couple of years. Called him last week and arranged this meeting. Also in room are his wife, Mrs. Laura W., daughter Mrs. Mary MacLean, daughter Lorraine and husband John Drew, daughter Joan Powers (and later on her husband John), and Phonsey Whitty's son Edgar. Dennis died young. He and LD never got on because LD was a hard taskmaster, a perfectionist. Could do almost anything he put his hand to– carpenter, blacksmith. How he braised things; only he and Art Cahill's father knew how to do this. LD had a beautiful house. Thought it was rather unusual for Whitty and Doyle girls not to leave home and men to leave home to marry them. Doyle as a postmaster. 1. "Picnic at Groshaut." Discussion only. No church there then, not mentioned in Rev. John B. McMillan's history of Catholic Church on PEI. Picnic took place not on church grounds but on field near railroad crossing on Bourke's Road, also known as New Acadia. [Machine turned off while I sing "Picnic." Whitty has a sheaf of typed and penciled copies that we are referring to.] 2. (song) "Bear at Grand River." Recited from his typed copy. Tells story of the bear hunt. 3. (song) "The Callaghan Murder," recited from a typed copy he has. Learned it from his uncle Jim Whitty. Mrs. Whitty sings over a bit of the tune. 4. "Forgan MacAleer." Discussion only. Tells story of how Doyle first heard the song from which he made the song. 5. (song) "When Johnny Went Plowing for Kieran." Preceded by a discussion of it. Mentions also that Doyle's version of Tuplin murder was not as good as some others. Mentions a song Doyle made up for Dr. Roddy MacDonald called "The Old Cowbell," then recites "Johnny." Mentions that everyone from around here went away to work in woods or something at some point, but not LD. Doyle did not get on with Larkin, nor with his own relatives. 6. "Merchants of the Bay." Discussion only. "Jewel" is Jewel Cox from Morell. Mention of other names. Schott's real name was Sullivan, who did business on promissory note, and LD called him "Scut", but Father Gillis asked him to change it. Also asked him to change two lines in "Forgan" about riding her bareback. I recite "Price War in Kings County" from McInnis's typed copy. LD put Father Tom Gorman through college, raised Gertrude and Patrick. Father Tom., also a poet, supposed to have had all of LD's poems. Dead now. 7. "Bud Jones." I recite it from his typed copy. Comments along the way by Whitty. 8. (cante-fable) About his refusal to play fiddle at someone's reception. 9. (poem) "Tom McMahon and Peddler Pratt." Recited from manuscript copy, be EDI. 10. "The Bay Bridge" I recite the few stanzas he has written down. Whitty thinks that LD also made poems about the other tea parties he mentions in "Picnic." I ask Whitty about the other poems. 11. "The School House Quakes." Discussion and a few lines. 12. Poem on Dorris Dingwell. I show him "Month of January," which he had never seen. End of Side One. Continued discussion of "Month of January." Discussion of "Bear at Grand River." They were threshing in spring. Taking grain out of barracks behind barn. Discussion of LD's father and mother, about which he knows nothing, and other members of the family. Farmer in "Bud Jones" was named George Robertson, lived across from Whitty place. Talk about Hughie Lochlin MacDonald. Raffle is a "pie social." She asks about "Scow on Cowden's Shore," and "Larrigans." Talk about side-hill gougers. Had not heard of any of Tom Lewis's songs. 13. (song) "Hell Bound Train." One stanza only with tune. Follows discussion of several different songs, none of it very significant. Does not think that any of the Tuplin songs I have are the ones Doyle made, but he at one time knew Doyle's version. He's since forgotten it but may be able to put a few verses together. Recites a couple of verses from version in Creighton SBNS, p.306. Discussion of Callahan Murder. "Grubbing" day by day, should have been "ghouling." Hughie Lochlin MacDonald couldn't read and write. He'd get hold of Doyle and get LD to meet him in Souris and LD would write it down. [Break for tea and a lunch.] 14. (song) "Milman Song." Recites a few lines. 15. "The Old Cowbell." Discussion only. How Doyle came to make the piece up. Is pretty sure LD did not make up "Sally Ann." 16. "And Now We'll Turn Round." A few lines of another LD piece. Mentions a piece about Sheriff Archie Currie and his bailiff Pat Dwan. Mentions another Hughie Lochlin MacDonald song about "Minnie Creed" and another by a man named Somers, "The Crooked Rib." Recites a few lines of it. Another poem by a man named MacMillan called "Joe the Posts Cow."

Repository Details

Part of the Northeast Archives of Folklore and Oral History Repository

5729 Raymond H. Fogler Library
University of Maine
Orono ME 04469-5729 United States