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Tuesday, 31 March 2020 14:10

Linda and Joe Byrne

Written by Jean Hewson
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The fifth feature in a series celebrating contributors to Canada’s grand folk legacy.

Traditional music came to Linda and Joe Byrne through family and community connections.

“When we resettled to Arnold’s Cove, I went to parties that were on the go and I became interested in the songs I heard there,” recalls singer Linda Byrne when asked about her early memories of traditional music.
“I learned songs mostly from Mac Masters and Mary Caul—they were both great singers. Mac was from Harbour Buffett and Mary was an old lady from Davis Cove. Then I started asking my mother about old songs, and she had loads of them, so I made recordings of her.”

Originally born in Kingwell on Long Island, Placentia Bay, Linda grew up in Arnold’s Cove during the folk music revival of the 1970s. People like Mac Masters had been brought to the public eye by the Ryan’s Fancy TV show on CBC, and bands such as Figgy Duff were bringing the traditional music of the province to folk festivals far and wide.

She eventually moved to St. John’s and became part of the local folk music scene, performing at concerts and various events, including the inaugural Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival in 1977. She hasn’t missed a festival since.

In the early ’70s, Linda travelled to Nova Scotia to attend the defunct Atlantic Folk Festival, an event established by legendary music presenter Brooks Diamond. While she was there, she met a man named Joe Byrne, who was performing with a group called the Breakwater Boys. Joe was from Grand Paradise on the western side of Placentia Bay. They hit it off, and have been together ever since.

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