Ships, Boats And Ferries – A Nostalgic Tribute

Ferries and ships depart and dock at Dublin’s ports on a daily basis. These boats mesmerize me.  Whenever I am in Dublin I often sit in my car, parked at the Summit in Howth, overlooking Dublin Bay.  Dublin’s waters grow busy, especially during afternoon rush hour.

Nostalgia overwhelms me watching Dublin’s shipping lanes. I left Ireland by airplane, so at first I didn’t understand why boats strike an emotional chord in my heart.

Stena Line

My mother will never watch these boats with me. She says they make her too sad, reminding her of days when all three of her daughters worked across the waters on foreign shores.

But I have never experienced a mother’s sadness at the loss of her children, yet these boats remind me of our nation’s sorrow. We are a country of immigrants, and even to this very day the Ireland’s young people are boarding ships and planes to seek their fortunes on distant shores.

In America boats are associated with leisure pursuits such as fishing, water skiing, cruising, and house-boating. The lonesomeness of immigration does not spring to most Americans’ minds upon seeing a water craft.

Not so for the Irish. Ever since I was a child, I have listened to Ireland’s folk music. Many of our traditional songs emphasize the pain of leaving family, friends and homeland. When I examined the lyrics of some Irish boat songs I realized I have been programmed since an early age to feel nostalgic at the sight of a ship.

In today’s post I share some excerpts from the sad, lonely songs of Ireland which focus on the pain of leaving. I hope these photos I took last summer will help illustrate the poignancy of these well-loved words.

The Cliffs Of Dooneen


“You may travel far far from your own native land

Far away o’er the mountains, far away o’er the foam

But of all the fine places that I’ve ever been

Sure there’s none can compare with the cliffs of Doneen.”


Irish Ferries By The Bailey Lighthouse



“I wish I was in Carrickfergus, only four nights in Ballygran

I would swim over the deepest ocean, the deepest ocean for my love to find.

But the sea is wide and I cannot swim over, and neither have I wings to fly

If I could find me a handsome boatman to ferry me over to my love and I.”


Irish Ferries

Come Back Paddy Reilly


“And tones that are tender and tones that are gruff

Are whispering over the sea,

“Come back, Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff

Come home, Paddy Reilly, to me”.


Ship By Howth

Botany Bay


“Farewell to your bricks and mortar

Farewell to your dirty lime

Farewell to your gangway and gang planks

And to hell with your overtime

For the good ship Ragamuffin

She is lying at the quay

For to take old Pat with a shovel on his back

To the shores of Botany Bay.”


Stena Line Passing Howth

The Shores Of Amerikay


“I’m bidding farewell to the land of my youth and the home I love so well

And the mountains so grand round my own native land

I’m bidding them all farewell

With an aching heart I’ll bid them adieu

For tomorrow I’ll sail far away

O’er the raging foam for to seek a home

On the shores of Amerikay.”


Stena Line Passing the Kish Lighthouse

Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore


“Our ship she lies at anchor, she’s standing by the quay

May fortune bright shine down each night, as we sail over the sea

Many ships were lost, many lives it cost on the journey that lies before

With a tear in my eye I’m bidding good-bye to Paddy’s Green shamrock shore.”


Ferry Leaving Dublin

The Leaving Of Liverpool


“So fare thee well, my own true love

And when I return, united we will be

It’s not the leaving of Liverpool that grieves me

But my darling, when I think of thee.”


Ferry In Dublin Bay

The Irish Rover


“In the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and six

We set sail from the sweet cove of Cork

We were sailing away with a cargo of bricks

For the grand city hall of New York

‘Twas an elegant craft, she was rigged fore and aft

And oh how the trade winds drove her

She could stand several blasts, she had twenty-seven masts

And they called her the Irish Rover.”


Ferry Photo Taken on Dollymount

The Holy Ground


“Now when we’re out a-sailing and you are far behind

Fine letters will I write to you with the secrets of my mind,

The secrets of my mind, my girl, you’re the girl that I adore,

And still I live in hope to see the Holy Ground once more.

You’re the girl that I adore,

And still I live in hope to see the Holy Ground once more.”


Boat In Dublin Bay

Farewell To Dublin In My Tears


“And now I’m standing on the Quay, my destiny’s uncertain

Where fortunes have been lost and won with the dealing of a hand

The past it is a purple haze, the future is an untold maze

The present is another gaze at dear old Dublin Town.”


Crow Watching The Stena Line Ferry

Home To Donegal


“The lights of London, are far behind

The thoughts of homeland are crowding my mind

Familiar places, come in to view

I see my home now, soon I’ll see you.”


Dublin's Boat, Ships and Ferries

Fiddler’s Green


“Wrap me up in me oil-skin and jumper

No more on the docks I’ll be seen

Just tell me old shipmates,

I’m taking a trip mates

And I’ll see you some day in Fiddler’s Green.”


Dublin Port

The Fields Of Athenry


“By a lonely harbour wall

She watched the last star falling.

And that prison ship sailed out against the sky.

Sure she’ll wait and hope and pray,

for her love in Botany Bay.

It’s so lonely round the fields of Athenry.”


I hope you’re not too teary after all these sad lyrics. Nostalgic and sentimental definitely are words to describe these excerpts.

And so now I think you’ll understand why the mere sight of a ship makes me a little wistful.  Do you ever feel the same way?



Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom


Winners Of Sean Feeny’s Northern Soul CD

A big thank you to everyone who participated in this week’s giveaway for four copies of Sean Feeny’s Northern Soul CD.  It was lovely to hear how much everyone enjoys Irish music.

Album Cover - Northern Soul


Our four lucky winners are:

Mary Sullivan


David McMurray

Julie B. Green


Congratulations to all four winners. I will send e-mails to arrange delivery of your prizes.

A big thanks to everyone who commented and supported this giveaway, and to Sean for sponsoring the prizes. Best wishes and I hope everyone had a lovely St. Patrick’s Day.


Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)


Irish American Mom

Sean Feeny’s Northern Soul – CD Review And Giveaway

Sean Feeny’s NORTHERN SOUL is a charity CD blending the sounds of motown and soul with the distinct strains of traditional Irish music.

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Weekend I thought why not introduce you to this unique and fascinating mixture of Irish and American music styles. And into the bargain, Sean has provided four copies of his wonderful album as prizes for four lucky readers of Irish American Mom.

Album Cover - Northern Soul


The Album:


On this album ‘Soul Man’ meets the uilleann pipes. The fiddle features on ‘Reach Out I’ll Be There’. The ukulele seems to be asking ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?’. These carefully chosen tracks are a unique take on some old classics. Sean describes this album as “The Commitments meets The Chieftans”.


“Sean Feeny’s NORTHERN SOUL is a brave and beautiful collection of classic soul songs

re-interpreted by a new and fresh soul singer.

What a breath of fresh Donegal Air in every heartfelt note!”

- Brian Kennedy


A Donegal man, Sean spent three years planning and developing Northern Soul, his first solo album. In his early twenties Seán toured with bands such as Westlife and Irish Country star Derek Ryan, and his former band D-Side, but now he is taking center stage to bring his musical vision to the world.

Singing- Sean Feeny

Sean Feeny of Northern Soul

Musicians and singers from all over Donegal shared their talents to record this charity album. Fiddlers, piano accordionists, flautists, tin whistle, mandolin, banjo and ukulele players all joined forces to recreate beautiful, heartfelt renditions of some old favorites.  Sean said:


“I am very privileged to have so many wonderful singers and musicians,

whom I am honoured to call friends, featuring on this album. 

Without their generosity and willingness to help this album

would never have been possible and wouldn’t have turned out the way it did.”


I have listened to this album many times, and love to sing-along when I’m driving. My voice is so bad, I’m banned from singing to it when the kids are in the car.

Sean Feeney

The Charities:


This CD is raising funds for GROW Mental Health Movement and the North West Simon Community. Five years ago Seán was part of the first annual Letterkenny Street Sleep, increasing his awareness of the plight of homeless people throughout Ireland and the world. This eye-opening experience led him to choose the North West Simon Community charity as one of those to benefit from sales of Northern Soul.

Northwest Simon Community

The aim of the Simon Community is to ensure people keep their homes, by providing a listening ear, practical supports, information and advocacy.

Grow is a National Mental Health Organisation that provides an opportuinity for growth and personal development for people with mental health problems, and also for people who may be having difficulty coping with life’s challenges.


How To Buy The Album:


Northern Soul is only 10 euro.  The album is available at Books & Charts, Dungloe, Leo’s Tavern, Meenaleck, Crolly or An Grianán Theatre, Letterkenny. It is also available by mail order. For queries email:

Thank you to Sean for his generosity, and concern for others. I wish him every success for a long and enduring career as a talented musician.

Sean Feeny’s Northern Soul is also featured on Facebook.


The Giveaway:




Four lucky winners will receive a copy of the CD Northern Soul by Sean Feeny.

To enter just leave a comment on this blog post by noon on Tuesday, March 18th, 2013.  Any comment will do but if you need inspiration why not tell us what type of music you enjoy, or what type of music would be a good blend with Irish traditional music.

A winning comment will be chosen randomly.  Remember to leave your e-mail so that I can contact you should you win.  Your e-mail won’t be published or shared, just used to contact our lucky contestants.

Winners will be announced on Tuesday March 18th, so I can get the winners’ prizes in the mail.

Thanks to everyone who enters and supports our giveaway. I look forward to reading your comments.



Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

I’m Coming Home – A Song For Christmas by The Jigsaw Jam and Keith O’Brien

I’m Coming Home is a new Christmas song penned by Keith O’Brien and The Jigsaw Jam, and dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of Irish emigrants around the world, who will not be able to make it home for the holidays.

Grafton Street’s Christmas lights twinkled in the background as these musicians filmed this heart warming song.  The video features clips of immigrants from around the globe sending messages home to their loved ones.


This is an amazing song by Irish artists with fabulous voices. Their Christmas present this year will hopefully be recognition by the music industry, which they truly deserve.


Beware – this video carries a Homesickness Warning!!!!


For anyone spending Christmas far away from family and friends, this song will bring tears to your eyes.

Homesickness is a strange phenomenon, which I have suffered from at various stages throughout my twenty something years living in America. When my initial wanderlust subsided during the first year of my time here, I soothed my Irish soul by returning to my family at Christmas time to recharge my batteries.

But as years passed by and cash flow restricted me from taking multiple trips across the Atlantic, my yuletide journeys to the Emerald Isle came to an end.  My passion for my new country has not waned, but at Christmas it is difficult not to feel homesick and sad. That’s when I miss Ireland the most.

To minimize my loneliness I bake cookies, join in every American Christmas activity, but deep down each year I miss my family in Dublin, Cork and Donegal.

The poignant words of this song stirred my heart and made me think of all the Irish people spending Christmas far away from home.

It’s over twenty years since I spent Christmas in Ireland, but I’m happy to say this year is an exception. My kids are so excited to experience their first Christmas in Ireland with their grandparents. We’ve e-mailed Santa to make sure he knows their correct delivery address.

And so, as I listened to this lovely song, I smiled because finally, I’m Coming Home for Christmas.

I hope you enjoy this video as much as I do. The single I’m Coming Home is now available on iTunes.


Nollaig Shona Daoibh

(Merry Christmas)


Irish American Mom

Instruments of Irish Traditional Music

Irish Traditional Music is at the heart of Irish culture and today is heard throughout the world. It is not a static, unchanging art form, but an evolving musical inheritance passed down through the ages.

In today’s guest post, Damien Peters explores the wide variety of instruments used in traditional Irish music and how non-Irish instruments have been adopted by today’s traditional Irish musicians.


Instruments of Irish Traditional Music by Damien Peters


There’s no denying that one of the treasures of Irish culture is the music. Upbeat, expressive and perhaps even a little addictive, it is thick with tradition, and continues to flourish today.

Traditional Irish Music

Image Credit

The setting where most Irish traditional music is played is known as a “session” or in the Irish/Gaelic language, “seisiún.”  These sessions can take place anywhere, but the most common setting is in a favored local pub or friend’s house. The range of instruments played at a session is very broad and not limited to instruments of Irish origin. In fact, many of the modern instruments employed in “traditional” Irish music today came from Europe and the United States, often brought by returning emigrants or by the influence of recorded music and television in later years.

One common non-Irish instrument often found at trad sessions is the guitar, which, with its adaptable nature, can be employed as a rhythm instrument (its primary role) and also a lead instrument. The guitar is most often used to provide rhythmical backing to a singer or lead instrument’s melody using chords. It’s quite rare for the guitarist to take the lead with single picked lines, but accomplished guitar players can often play solo pieces using a mixture of chords and picked lines.

For those beginner American musicians who want to learn Irish tunes, the guitar may be the most practical selection of instrument, as classes will be the most available for this versatile choice, and acoustic guitars can be bought here for a variety of price points.

From the 1960’s, the bouzouki, an eight stringed instrument originally used in Greek music, has played a similar role to the guitar, in that it is primarily used for rhythm working, but will occasionally also take the lead. Since its introduction there have been some modifications made to the bouzouki’s shape in Ireland, which has led to some musicians speaking of an “Irish” bouzouki rather than the less common Greek model.

Banjo In Traditional Irish Music

Banjo In Traditional Irish Music

Image Credit

Additionally, the banjo has been incorporated into traditional music since the early 20th century. An import from the traditional bands of the United States, who were themselves influenced by Irish music, the banjo is now one of the oft included instruments in trad groups. Unlike the guitar and bouzouki, the banjo is used for melody, doubling the lines of a singer or taking responsibility for the melody of the piece itself.



Image Credit

Modern drum kits have been used in some traditional recordings and live performances, but the basis of a session’s rhythm nearly always comes from a bodhrán. This is a rounded drum, which resembles a large tambourine without the metal jingles, or zils, around the edge. Held from behind with the left hand, the bodhrán is struck with the right using a small stick about the same length as a pencil and held the same way, or it is simply struck with the open hand. The stick has a variety of names but is most often called a “tipper”. Brushes, as used on standard modern drumkits for lighter pop and jazz songs, are also sometimes used to play the bodhrán. The left hand, by tightening and loosening the skin of the bodhrán, can manipulate the tone of the beats heard. If you’re looking to try your hand at this fun instrument, click here.

Probably the two most common lead instruments in Irish music are the fiddle and the tin whistle. In design, the fiddle doesn’t differ from the classical violin, except that many trad players do not use the chin rest. Almost all traditional bands and sessions will include at least one fiddler, but the instrument, like Irish traditional music itself, is most prominent in the West of Ireland.

The tin whistle is just as widely featured at a session as the fiddle, and the night when one is not brought out for at least one tune is rare indeed. Nearly all Irish primary schools offer lessons in the tin whistle and the affordable and compact nature of the instrument help its popularity further. With its diminutive size and simple tunes, the tin whistle would not be thought to be capable of transferring to larger groups, but bands like the punk/trad band the Pogues made the tin whistle imperative to their sound, while the Corrs demonstrated that the whistle could just as easily bring the sound of Irish trad to pop audiences.

A final instrument seen prominently at sessions and in trad groups is the button accordion. It first came to prominence on the island in the 1800’s and is now a mainstay of the modern trad sound. Though less common, concertinas are also popular. Both instruments are used prominently at céilí dances where traditional steps, familiar to anyone who has seen Riverdance, are done to traditional tunes. The accordion, as a versatile instrument that can be played unaccompanied, is the perfect soundtrack on these occasions.

Irish Harp

Irish Harp

Image Credit

While these are the instruments that will be seen and heard at almost any trad get together, two of the oldest instruments used in Irish music are often largely absent. The oldest of course is the harp, the national symbol of the country, which has a century’s long history of being played at the courts of Irish kings and chieftains.

With the fall of the last Gaelic Irish chieftains in the 17th Century, the harp fell from popularity, limping along until a small resurgence in the last century or so. Despite this downturn, it should never be forgotten that most of the tunes played today by “traditional” Irish musicians were actually composed on the harp by players long before.

Uilleann Pipes and Bodhran

Uilleann Pipes and Bodhrán

Image Credit

The uilleann pipes is another native instrument that is often missed. Those privileged to see them played in person will often notice a passing similarity to bagpipes, but the smaller uilleann pipes have some advantages over their Scottish cousins. The uilleann pipes, unlike the bagpipes, can operate over two octaves, giving them a much wider ability to convey a range of emotions and tones. At the same time, the uilleann pipes can also produce a harmonic backing for the main melody with the use of special keys. Played with a group or unaccompanied then, the uilleann pipes create a sound that few who hear it will ever forget, alive with soaring tones yet also able to convey sounds of the deepest sorrow.

Music communicates the country’s spirit unlike any other medium, and has the ability to transport you to a particular time and place. Whether you’re interested in diversifying your musical repertoire, celebrating your heritage or simply want to take a melodic five minute vacation to the Cliffs of Moher or the Lakes of Killarney, Irish music is the channel through which it is possible.


Damien Peters was born in Carlow, Ireland and first began playing in guitar in 1996, giving his first guitar lesson in 2001. Since then he has taught and played in Ireland as well as Asia in a number of bands and different music schools. Today he plays most weekends, covering the classics, and teaches during the week at Simphony Music School in Phnom Penh.



Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom