Telling the story of war in song: the men of the Goulds

Archival Moment

July 1, 1916

The Songs of World War One

The Songs of World War One

Deeply rooted in the culture of Newfoundland and Labrador is the tradition of telling stories in song. During the First World War whole communities rallied around the young men from their towns that signed up to fight for King and Country, singing songs that extolled the virtues of the young men. Typically the songs followed established tunes, well known in the communities with new lyrics added that resonated with the people of the place.

During the First World War, if you attended a party in the Goulds (on the outskirts of St. John’s) it would be likely that you would hear sung “The Boys from the Goulds” sung to the tune of the old Irish song “Wearing of the Green.”

The Boys from the Goulds

Oh, people dear, did you hear

The news that’s near and far?

For our old dear boys here from the


Are going to the war!

They are a crowd of stirring lads,

The truth to you I’ll tell;

They will shortly leave for Scotland

Where they will be trained there well.


They’re the Boys from Newfoundland

The Brave Boys from Newfoundland

They will fight the Kaiser’s Army

They’re the Boys from Newfoundland

There is Weston William and Peter Finn,

James Howlett and Thos Clarke,

And William Frizell and Henry

They’re sure to do their part;

There is Perry Howlett and Willie Ryan

John Heffernan and Joe White.

Then they go to fight the Germans

They mean to show their might.




There’s James Walsh and Lawrence Murphy

Poor John Barton once so brave;

The latter two I mention

They have filled a soldier’s grave.


The men that are referred to in the song are:

Weston Williams, Regimental #: 3312. Age of Enlistment: 18.

Peter Finn, Regimental #: 3230. Age of Enlistment: 22.

James Joseph Howlett, Regimental #: 3313. Age of Enlistment: 19.

Thomas Clark, Regimental #: 3311 from Goulds, Age of Enlistment: 18

William Frizell, Regimental #: 3279. Age of Enlistment: 21

Pierre Howett, Regimental #: 3352. Age of Enlistment: 18

William Ryan, Regimental #:133. Age of Enlistment: 24

Michael Heffernan, Regimental #: 4316. Age of Enlistment: 26

Joseph White: Regimental #: 1241. Age of Enlistment: 20

James Walsh: Regimental #: 2341. Age of Enlistment: 22

Lawrence Murphy: Regimental #: 196. Age of Enlistment: 20

John Barton: Regimental # 1485. Age of Enlistment: 28

Recommended Archival Collection: What do we have in the ‘Rooms Archives’ on this subject? Type  Newfoundland Regiment   in the search bar here:

Recommended Exhibit:

Commemoration of the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel: On the 100th anniversary of the battle at Beaumont-Hamel, The Rooms will open this new permanent exhibition. Journey from trench to home front, from recruitment and training through service overseas as you experience stories of the Great War and its lasting impact on the people and the identity of Newfoundland and Labrador. A full day of commemorative activities is planned for July 1, 2016 to honour those from Newfoundland and Labrador who served in the First World War.

Due to the level of interest and anticipated large numbers in attendance  for the tribute event, The Royal Newfoundland Regiment Gallery will not open to the public until Saturday, July 2.  The Rooms is pleased to offer FREE admission to this exhibition on July 2 and 3.

Listen to the tune: ‘The Wearing of the Greene’ and sing the lyrics of the “The Boys from the Goulds” :