Thousands Are Sailing

You brave Irish heroes
Wherever you be
I pray stand a moment
And listen to me
Your sons and fair daughters
Are now going away
And thousands are sailing
To Americay

So good luck to those people
And safe may they land
They are leaving their country
For a far distant strand
They are leaving old Ireland
No longer can stay
And thousands are sailing
To Americay

The night before leaving
They are bidding goodbye
And it’s early next morning
Their heart gives a sigh
They do kiss their mothers
And then they will say
Farewell dear old father
We must now go away

Their friends and relations
And neighbors also
When the trunks they are packed up
All ready to go
Oh the tears from their eyes
They fall down like the rain
And the horses are prancing
Going off for the train


When they do reach the station
You will hear their last cry
With handkerchiefs waving
And bidding goodbye
Their hearts will be breaking
On leaving the shore
Farewell dear old Ireland
Will we ne’er see you more

Oh I pity the mother
That rears up the child
And likewise the father
Who labours and toils
To try to support them
He will work night and day
And when they are reared up
They will go away

(Chorus 2x)


I have a lot of songs about emigration in my repertoire, not so much because I like singing about it, but because there are so many fine ballads on the subject, I can’t resist them. This one always strikes me as being different! Most emigration songs are highly subjective. The unfortunate hero sings of saying goodbye to sweetheart and country — this one appears to have been written by a poet or ballad-maker who stands apart and views the subject objectively. For me this gives it a very modern feel. The late Eddie Butcher of Co. Derry sang a version of this song one day when I went to visit him. Subsequently I heard another version sung by Robin Morton and Cathal McConnell which they had from John Maquire of Co. Fermanagh.
I juggled the words about a bit, wrote a few more and put it to a tune of my own.

Andy Irvine, liner notes for “Folkfriends 2,” FF 3003/4, 1981

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