In 1992, overfishing and the consequent dramatic decline in Atlantic fish stocks led the Canadian government to order a moratorium on cod fishing and to restrict catches of groundfish, instantly putting 40,000 people out of work in the Atlantic provinces, including songwriter Lennie Gallant’s home province of Prince Edward Island. Gallant wrote the song at his father’s cottage overlooking the newly silent harbour in their hometown, after discussing the fishery collapse with friends.
Gallant captures Maritimers’ despair in Peter’s Dream’s very personal lyrics. Lines such as “Where am I gonna go now? … What about this boat I own?...What about my father’s bones?” reflect the incredulity with which people met the government’s unwelcome suggestion that people retrain and relocate. Bewilderment, frustration, desperation – the song conveys people’s reactions as their livelihood was snatched from them, right down to fishermen threatening to scuttle their own boats.
Gallant recorded Peter’s Dream on his third album, 1994’s “The Open Window” (CK 80196), produced by Colin Linden. “RPM Magazine” called the song “an instant classic,” and the album “a masterpiece.”
Nicholas Jennings in a “Globe and Mail” review declared, “Gallant’s most stirring number is Peter’s Dream, a heartbreaking tale that conveys both a fisherman’s despair over his lost livelihood and his ongoing spiritual connection to the sea.”
In May 1995 the single rose to RPM’s adult contemporary No. 29 after nine weeks on the chart, and reached No. 74 on the country chart. “The Open Window” was the East Coast Music Awards’ Factor Recording of the Year, and Gallant won Male Recording Artist of the Year. Peter’s Dream earned Gallant SOCAN’s Songwriter of the Year award.
Twenty years later, Gallant featured Peter’s Dream in his hit touring musical “Searching for Abegweit: The Island Songs and Stories of Lennie Gallant,” which was the ECMAs’ 2017 Folk Recording of the Year. The song also appears on his “Lennie Gallant Live” album (2000) and “Live Acoustic at the Carleton” (2014), which similarly earned a Canadian Folk Music Award.
Voted by fans as No. 4 of the CBC’s top 10 East Coast songs, Peter’s Dream has been covered by the popular Celtic band The Outside Track and by the Ennis Sisters. It can also be found on “Mariposa ’97,” “The Evolution of East Coast Music, Vol.1: Pub Roots,” and “Nashville Skyline Folk Alliance Showcase Compilation, 2003.”
Peter’s Dream is also the title of a book illustrated by Gallant’s sister, Karen Gallant.
“Saltscapes Magazine” said about Peter’s Dream that “Over the years it has become part of the cultural landscape on the East Coast.”
Songwriter Lennie Gallant hails from Rustico, Prince Edward Island. He took up guitar at age 13, influenced by Bob Dylan, Gordon Lightfoot, Leonard Cohen and Neil Young, and performed in community shows with his family and later in Celtic bands. He subsequently established himself as a leading East Coast roots performer, winning such awards as Canadian Folk Music Awards’ Artist of the Year and East Coast Music Awards’ Entertainer of the Year. He is a member of the Order of Canada.