Elmer Robinson | Bowing Down Home

Elmer Robinson at Richmond Fiddle Festival, 1991

Biography

Elmer Robinson came from a major fiddling family. On his mother’s side, he was a nephew of William Harvey, who placed second to Neil Cheverie in the Great Fiddle Contest of 1926. On the paternal side, Elmer’s father and two uncles were good fiddle players.

Elmer started out on harmonica, organ, and piano, and didn't take up the fiddle in a serious way until his mid-20s. He developed quickly, however, and by the 1940s he was playing widely for house parties, hall dances, and weddings throughout an area bordered by Grand River on the east, Wellington on the South, and O’Leary on the west. According to such fiddlers as Jackie Biggar, Jim MacDougall, and Ervin Rafferty, Robinson was probably the most popular dance fiddler in west-central Prince County for more than three decades. He was also the most admired and widely emulated fiddler in the region for many years.

Elmer had a very lively, syncopated style of bowing and created interesting and unusual twists on such common Island tunes as St. Anne's Reel and Mrs. McLeod of Rasay. He won first prize so often at the PEI Fiddling Championships in nearby Tyne Valley that he was ultimately asked to retire from competition and become one of the judges.

Elmer was a great admirer of Cape Breton fiddling and often augmented his repertoire with tunes from Cape Breton broadcasts and recordings. Some tunes that entered his repertoire in this manner are Mrs. Beatty Wallace, Lord Seaforth, and Marchionness of Tullybardine.

Strings teacher Peter Robinson is a distant relative of Elmer’s.

During his 1992 recording session, Elmer invited three of his fiddling friends to come by and join the proceedings: Eddy Arsenault of St. Chrysostom, Frank O'Connor of Kildare Capes, and Warren Leard of Coleman. This made not only for a very festive occassion, but allowed us to record some great group fiddling. Some group fiddling recordings made from that session appear below under the heading, "Tunes from the Robinson Gathering."

Tune Selections

Robinson, Elmer - Brae Reel / Marchioness of Tullybardine Accompanied by: Eldon MacArthur, gtr; Ken Perlman, bjo
West Prince
info
Robinson, Elmer - ERobinson reel 1 Accompanied by: first unacc, then repeated with Ken Perlman, bjo
West Prince
info
Robinson, Elmer - Lord Seaforth Accompanied by: Eldon MacArthur, gtr; Ken Perlman, bjo
West Prince
info
Robinson, Elmer - Marchioness of Tullybardine / Growling Old Man Accompanied by: John Cousins, gtr; Ken Perlman, bjo
West Prince
info
Robinson, Elmer - Mrs. Beatty Wallace Accompanied by: Eldon MacArthur, gtr; Ken Perlman, bjo
West Prince
info
Robinson, Elmer - Mrs. McLeod of Rasay Accompanied by: John Cousins, gtr; Ken Perlman, bjo
West Prince
info
Robinson, Elmer - Pigeon on the Gatepost / Pride of the Ball Accompanied by: Bernice Leard, pno; Eugene Gallant, gtr
West Prince
info
Robinson, Elmer - Pride of the Ball / Miramichi Fire Accompanied by: John Cousins, gtr; Ken Perlman, bjo
West Prince
info
Robinson, Elmer - Ste. Anne's Reel Accompanied by: John Cousins, gtr; Ken Perlman, bjo
West Prince
info

Tune Selections

Robinson Gathering - Lord MacDonald's Reel Accompanied by: Eldon MacArthur, gtr; Ken Perlman, bjo info
Robinson Gathering - Maid Behind the Bar Accompanied by: Eldon MacArthur, gtr; Ken Perlman, bjo info
Robinson Gathering - Robinsongathering Reel 1 Accompanied by: Eldon MacArthur, gtr; Ken Perlman, bjo info
Robinson Gathering - Walker St. Accompanied by: Eldon MacArthur, gtr; Ken Perlman, bjo info
West Prince Fiddlers Club - Heather on the Hill / Farmer's Reel Accompanied by: Dorothy Dalton Rogers or Cyrus Gallant, pno; Jack Arbing, mand
info
West Prince Fiddlers Club - Jackson's Jig / WestPrinceFiddlers Jig 1 Accompanied by: Dorothy Dalton Rogers or Cyrus Gallant, pno; Jack Arbing, mand
info

Oral Histories

Fiddling in the family Started on keyboard; father and both grandfathers played fiddle info and transcript
Robinson’s fiddling pedigree Uncle was Wm Harvey (the champion fiddler of the Island) info and transcript

Video Clips