'We're still in Wexford,' says Irish folklorist living in Branch

"We're 3,000 kilometres away from Wexford — and we're still in Wexford," says Michael Fortune, an Irish folklorist.

Fortune and his wife, traditional Irish singer Aileen Lambert, and their three daughters, Nellie, nine, Eppie, six, and Nan, four, are spending a month on The Cape Shore, on the southwestern tip of the Avalon Peninsula.

The family is exploring and documenting the similarities between their home in County Wexford, Ireland, and Branch.

"I've met a woman, that I swear, she's like my Auntie Nellie at home," said Lambert.

"We really feel like we're meeting our aunts and cousins when we're down in Branch and around the Southern Shore."

Irish settlers

Many of the original Irish settlers to Newfoundland in the 1700s came from Wexford and other parts of southeastern Ireland.

Fortune and Lambert briefly visited the Cape Shore area about a decade ago.

They were so stunned with the similarities between Branch and their home in County Wexford that they vowed to return.

We also see you have Boncloddy Street. We say Bunclody now, but actually Boncloddy, the way you say it, is more like it would have been years ago. - Aileen Lambert

This time around, the Fortune-Lambert family has thrown themselves face and eyes into Cape Shore community life.

Fortune has been documenting their conversations and activities with local residents on audio and video, and posting it online for Irish and Newfoundland folklore enthusiasts.

He said words, turns of phrase, and accents that have disappeared from modern Wexford are alive and well on the Cape Shore.

'Scrawb, that's direct Irish' 

"I'm able to say, 'That's Irish [Gaelic], that's Irish [Gaelic], that came from Middle English.'" said Fortune.

"'Scrawb,' that's direct Irish, you'd get a scrawb from a cat or get into a fight and scrawb the eyes out of them."  

"Certain families here, you can even pinpoint whether their relations are Wexford or [County] Waterford."  

Michael Fortune

Wexford-St. Bride's singalong

Lambert has been teaching traditional Wexford songs to the students at Fatima Academy in St. Bride's, and both she and her children have been performing songs of Wexford and Newfoundland around the communities.

Lambert and the girls taught local children an Irish song, Little Pack of Tailors, which the Fatima Academy students then made their own.

"The great thing about Little Pack of Tailors is that you can add a new verse, depending on where you are," said Lambert.

"And they added all their own verses where they were going around to all the little communities around the area."  

We're in and out of the schools in St. Bride's and we're saying 'Isn't it great to have your own accent?' - Michael Fortune

The family has been making occasional trips to St. John's to make presentations and give performances, and even in St. John's, they are surprised by similarities.

"We also see you have Boncloddy Street, [in St. John's]," said Lambert.

"We say Bunclody [in Ireland] now, but actually, Boncloddy, the way you say it, is more like it would have been years ago."

"It's a town at home. I went to secondary school in Bunclody."

Culture and turns of phrase

Lambert will be presenting Songs and Ballads of County Wexford and Newfoundland at The Rooms Theatre on Sunday at 2 p.m.  Her daughters will join her for part of the performance, and Fortune will document it all.

Fortune said he's impressed with the pride that people they have met on the Cape Shore have in their local culture, turns of phrase and way of life.

"We're in and out of the schools in St. Bride's and we're saying 'Isn't it great to have your own accent,'" he said.

"'Isn't it great to have your own words when you go to St. John's?' The world would be an awful boring place if we were all the same."

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