Ships, boats and ferries 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.
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 Dooneen."
"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."
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".
"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."
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
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
"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."
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?
Thanks for following my recipes and ramblings.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
Here are some more recipes and ramblings you might enjoy...
Furze - The Yellow Flower of the Irish Landscape
Love the blues of the water and sky in your photos, Mairead. Such vibrant shots!
Irish American Mom
Thanks Cheryl. I was lucky to be in Ireland last summer. It was glorious, with the sun shining brightly on many summer days. It was unusually warm, with very little of our customary rain.
Yes, I do, Mairead. Sure, it is not too many generations back, that teems of Irish crossed the ocean in those 'coffin ships,' and most knew, and their families too, that they would never return. There are old graveyards all over America with Irish Counties, and Towns, hammered into the lichen-stained headstones. That was all they could do to be remembered. I visited one of those old, half-forgotten graveyards where my husbands ancestors rest, and greeted them in Gaelic, being the only 'real' Irish person to come into the family since they left Mother Ireland so long ago. Looking at their resting places was very moving to me. Being an ancient nation of seafarers, we are wistful, at times.
When I fly back and see the fingers of land stretching out into the sea in the early morning light, I cannot help thinking of those lines in the poem, "O Ireland, isn't it grand you look, like a bride in her rich adorning; with all the pent up love in my heart, I wish you the top of the morning."
Thank you for the post.
Irish American Mom
Maureen - What a beautiful story - I think your husband's ancestors are smiling down from heaven.
Like you, the fingers of land projecting into the Atlantic on Ireland's western coast make me wistful. I love the poem you quoted. Every time I visit West Cork, where my mother was born, I love to stand on the edge of the land looking out to sea. I always remember a few lines from the poem, "The Wild Geese":
"Oh rough and rude Atlantic, the thunderous the wide,
Whose kiss is like a soldier's kiss, it cannot be denied."
Ships and the scars left by generations of immigration definitely make us a wistful lot.
All the best,
"It's too late now I'm on the ship and there goes Ireland into the night and it's foolish to be standing on this deck looking back and thinking of my family and Limerick and Malachy and my faher in England and even more foolish that songs are going through my head Roddy McCorley goes to die and Mam gasping Oh the days of the Kerry dancing with poor Mr. Clohessy hacking away in bed and now I want Ireland back at least I had Mam and my brothers and Aunt Aggie bad as she was and Uncle Pa, standing me my first pint, and my bladder is near my eye and here's a priest standing by me on the deck and you can see he's curious....." Frank McCourt, Angela's Ashes
Thanks for the wonderful post, Mairead...and thanks, also, to Maureen N for her lovely comment. TMJ
Irish American Mom
Terry - I love that excerpt from Angela's Ashes. Thanks so much for adding it here.
All the best,
Fr John McCuen
The quote from "The Shores of Amerikay" brought tears to my eyes; perhaps because it is very much like the lament of the chorus of, "Lough Sheelin Eviction":
Farewell my love, a fond adieu,
Farewell my comrades and my country, too
For I'm forced to fly o're the ocean wide
From the home I loved by Lough Sheelin's side
(The version by the Wolfe Tones never fails to move me to tears.)
Somehow the ferry doesn't create a sense of loss that a sailing vessel might, since a ferry suggests movement back and forth, as opposed to a long, and essentially one-way journey across the ocean. That undoubtedly is a reflection of my own family's immigrant roots; I'm sure those whose families were divided when some left for England to find work, and took a ferry, would see the images differently. But thank you for a most provocative post!
Irish American Mom
Fr. McCuen - I'm glad you enjoyed my nostalgic tribute to Irish ships and ferries. I agree that the sight of an old sailing vessel is more poignant and heart wrenching than a ferry. I love the verse from "Lough Sheelin Eviction" which you've added to this collection of immigrant song lyrics. I had forgotten that song, so I listened to it again on YouTube. It definitely is a tear jerker, and the Wolfe Tone's version is beautiful.
Thanks so much for stopping by, and joining in our little discussion of all things Irish.