Gaelic songs were an import part of life in Nova Scotia, with working songs that accompanied the rhythms of various tasks: milking a cow, weaving, churning, rowing or preparing wool cloth for use, among others. Fast-paced milling songs (also known as waulking or fulling) remained popular even after the need for milling declined. Summer festivals often still include a milling frolic where people gather to sing songs and keep time by beating wool cloth on a table.
Traditional Gaels shy away from praise, considering it bad luck, except when expressed in song. Many Gaelic songs lavish praise on a place, a friend, a sweetheart, a family member, a ship, a cow or something else. Other songs tell tales of humorous local events, tragic drownings, the beauty of nature or the difficulty of settling in a new land. Some songs still heard in Nova Scotia were brought from Scotland, while others were composed here.