Da Merry Boys O Greenland: Musical Reflections of Shetland's Maritime Culture

Research output: Contribution to conferenceUnpublished paperpeer-review


Many of the songs and tunes in Shetland’s musical repertoire have been inspired by the islanders’ long associations with the sea and seafaring. A number of these were transported back across the Atlantic from whaling and fur trading expeditions to the arctic fringes and carry tales related to Shetland’s rich maritime past. During the time of the Greenland fishery in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, most ships included a member of the crew able to play the fiddle and keep the crews’ spirits up. Similarly on exploratory journeys to the Arctic the fiddle has been documented as an integral feature of the social and leisure activities of crew members. In addition to this, different nationalities onboard ships contributed to a lively exchange of music from a variety of different geographical areas across Scandinavia, the Arctic, the British Isles, and Northern Europe.

This paper aims to explore the strong link between Shetland’s tune and song repertoire and the islands’ nautical past. In doing this, I will discuss the use of music as a means of reflecting and reinforcing the cultural identity of Shetland’s seafarers over the last two centuries. The presentation will include photographs and archival recordings as a means of illustrating how the Shetland musical tradition can be used a valuable resource in exploring the maritime history of the islands.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventAtlantic Sounds: Ships and Sailortowns International Conference - University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom
Duration: 14 Mar 201416 Mar 2014


ConferenceAtlantic Sounds: Ships and Sailortowns International Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • shetland music fiddle nautical ships


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