Era Inducted To: Pioneer Era
In 1928, at the young age of 15, Arthur Scammell penned what would become a classic East Coast song – all for a high school project. Scammell wrote the song to the tune of an Irish fiddle song, Larry O’Gaff. Squid Jiggin’ Ground gives voice and melody to the way of life of the Newfoundland squid fisherman and their work. The song is unique because it describes the method of jigging for squid and the type of equipment and circumstance that revolve around the activity.
In 1940, Gerald Doyle published Squid Jiggin’ Ground in his anthology ‘Old Time Songs and Poetry of Newfoundland’ (2nd Edition). This brought the song some recognition but it was in 1943, when Scammell himself recorded the song that the real success of the song arrived. This recording is thought to be the first commercial recording of a Newfoundland folk song and became Newfoundland’s first local hit record when it sold 15,000 copies in 1943. Scammell would later copyright Squid Jiggin’ Ground in 1944.
In 1949, as Canada celebrated the entry of Newfoundland into Confederation, the song was played on the Peace Tower Carillon in Ottawa.
Arthur Scammell was born in Change Islands, Newfoundland. He was a schoolteacher there during the 1930s and in the Montreal suburb of Mount Royal from 1942 to 1969. He was best-known for his song writing but he also wrote articles on the local folksong genre which was published in the magazine Atlantic Guardian, of which he was also the co-founder. Through essays and stories, Scammell attempted to convey some of the positive aspects of life in Newfoundland outports, which he saw as providing a sense of community and personal satisfaction that larger centres lacked. A collection of Scammell’s work was published as ‘My Newfoundland’ in 1966. Scammell made five 78s (nine songs) in 1943, including Squid Jiggin’ Ground and distributed them privately. Discographer Michael Taft, described Scammell as the first person to record specifically for the Newfoundland market. After his retirement to St. John’s, Scammell joined the faculty of Memorial University where he taught English. In 1987 he became a Member of the Order of Canada. The Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council offers a writing award in his name and has named a school in his birthplace after him.
Cover artists include: Hank Snow recorded it as a single for the Canadian market, Omar Blondahl, George Hamilton IV, Harry Hibbs, Ed McCurdy, Alan Mills, Dick Nolan, the Travellers, the Irish Rovers, and Finest Kind recorded it on their album ‘Heart’s Delight’.