By Ernie Laidlaw

ERNIE LAIDLAW – VOCALS & ACOUSTIC, JOHN AYLWARD – MANDOLIN & BACKGROUND VOCALS

About Ernie Laidlaw

Ernie Laidlaw was a singer/songwriter for more than  50 years of his life, performing across Canada and in Portugal.  Ernie  grew up and went to school in Sydney Mines,  got his first guitar when he was 12 years old which led to a lifelong learning and growth as a  musician. Those years were rich both music and interest in our local history. While attending St.FX University, Ernie and friends John Hugh Edwards and John Aylward formed the group Bitter Creek  in the mid  1970s.  Ernie and John Aylward went on the road as Bitter Creek starting out of Halifax, Nova Scotia and working throughout the country, playing the college and bar circuits for a couple of years. Bitter Creek grew to become  several other bands formed around the Laidlaw and Aylward duo. Ernie wrote many songs during those road days, and the first to be recorded were “Where do you stand on the Gaff”, and “Madman in the Attic” .

Resources

Ernie held several long-term performing contracts at venues in Halifax such as Chateau Halifax and Pinos.   He moved to Toronto in the late 1980’s and played in a jazz duo while attending York University doing a degree in Humanities.  He also played in various folk clubs in the city such as Free Times and Transat.  Returning to Nova Scotia in 2002 he recorded his first CD, All The Way Down and performed in venues such as Rose and Kettle Tearoom, Wolfville Farmers Market and Night Kitchen. Ernie was a consummate musician,  played in bands, summer projects teaching music, recording stories of local musicians, wrote and recorded songs, one of which hit number one on the charts in southern Ontario. Ernie’s original music was a rich blend of roots and blues, presented in a fast paced, entertaining style.  He was featured on CBC radio and television and his song, Stand on the Gaff, has been used as source material at Cape Breton University.  His music was used in a documentary about his hometown and most recently his CD, All the Way Down caught the attention of a music company in Toronto, Indie Pool, who signed him to a film and television contract. Ernie’s last CD, published posthumously, “Lives All Right” was released in 2016.

 

Born in Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia in 1952, Ernie died in Dartmouth on June 10, 2014.

 

What prompted Ernie to compose this song.

Ernie was, like many of us from Sydney Mines at the time, proud of  our families and the coal mining roots that went with that lifestyle. “Where do you Stand on the Gaff” was his version of the coal mining strikes in CB in the late 1920, as told to him by his father and other relatives. The song, while well versed and musically interesting, always got attention when played live because of Ernie’s passion in singing that song.

 He and I [John Aylward] recorded in it  Halifax, thinking about 1976,  as one side of a “45”recording.  He played 6 string guitar and sang, and I played mandolin and sang backup.  I don’t remember if I played bass on it, but if there is bass, I played it.

 Why?  Because it was a good song that always got a good audience response, and I believe Ernie was very proud of it as something he has created that was true to the story.

Context of the 1925 Strike

Speakers in order of appearance: Angus F MacDonald New Waterford, Danny The Dancer MacDonald, Glace Bay, Jeremy Akerman, Joe Nearing, Glace Bay, Danny the Dancert macDonald, Glace Bay

Beaton Institute, T-28: Recording conducted by Jeremy Akerman in 1967. Produced under the auspices of CHER Radio, Sydney, and first aired on Monday, July 31, 1967 on the occasion of the official opening of the Cape Breton Miners Museum.

The Ballad of Slim McInnis // The Ballad of Slim McInnis - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  1. The Ballad of Slim McInnis // The Ballad of Slim McInnis - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  2. Doscomocracy // Doscomocracy - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  3. Trampin’ Down the Highway // Trampin’ Down the Highway - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  4. Quaint Harbour // Quaint Harbour - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  5. Blackheart’s of the Company // Blackheart’s of the Company - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  6. Stand the Gaff // Stand the Gaff - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  7. Michael’s Tune // Michael’s Tune - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  8. Arise Ye Nova Scotia Slaves // Arise Ye Nova Scotia Slaves - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  9. Whatever It Takes // Whatever It Takes - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  10. The Wearing of the Red // The Wearing of the Red - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  11. Down at Sydney Steel // Sydney Steel - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  12. Stronger then Steel // Stronger then Steel - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  13. Steel Winds // Steel Winds - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  14. A Cape Breton Lament // A Cape Breton Lament - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  15. An Seann Tigh Sgoil // An Seann Tigh Sgoil - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  16. Friday Evening // Ian MacDougall - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  17. The Voice of the Worker // The Voice of the Worker - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  18. Daughters Awake // Daughters Awake - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  19. Cape Breton Miner and Besco // Cape Breton Miner and Besco - Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  20. Miner’s Wife // Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest
  21. Steel Workers Lament // Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest