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This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Songs about Emigration October 19, 2013

Posted by irishelectionliterature in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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I said goodbye to a friend bound for Australia last weekend. It was almost surreal parting with the words “see you in a few years” . Himself and his wife went back down the country to spend the last few days with family before heading to the other side of the world. I thought naturally of his parents and family.
Still though like half the country we have the Sunday chats with various family on Skype and then every few months we manage to find a common time with those in New Zealand to say a few words. Seeing new nieces and nephews, waving to cousins over Skype.
The sad part is of course that our leaders had boasted during the boom that emigration was over, no longer were we rearing our young to go abroad. Thats struck a chord with many. Cork and briefly Belfast was the furthest I ever moved away from Dublin but in the years after I left school in the 80’s many of my friends left. Christmas time in the pub was full of returning emigrants from London, Germany and the odd one back from the US.
In my in-laws there is a photo from a wedding in the early 60’s, it was the one and only time all the seven siblings were together. Each one reared to leave….
Whats is disgusting though is that each person emigrating is not treated as the family tragedy it often is or as a failure of the state…..instead this Government and the last (and ones before them) treat it as a triumph of one less on the live register.
As for the music its strange there are plenty of songs about Irish Emigration, with ‘Thousands are Sailing’ possibly the best. Often its not the emigrant songs that remind you of home but any song can remind you of home …. I had a friend who reminiscing about home always mentioned a certain ‘Smokie’ song! (not icluded here thankfully)….

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1. Wendy Lyon - October 19, 2013

Same sentiments from Scotland: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGrwVAHbKVc

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2. Phil - October 19, 2013

Quite a few traditional songs on this theme, e.g. Craigie Hill (from the North of the island, hence references to the Bann and Doorin Point). John Kelly does a wonderful version of this song, but unfortunately it’s not online.

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3. This weekend I’ll also be listening to… Black 47 | The Cedar Lounge Revolution - October 19, 2013

[…] A very welcome guest post from Joe Mooney which complements IEL’s This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to also from today… […]

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4. eamonncork - October 19, 2013


This was always my favourite and not just for the sentimental reason that my late father sang it all the time.

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5. eamonncork - October 19, 2013

And I think this is one of the great emigrating to England songs.

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6. eamonncork - October 19, 2013

One reason country and western music has always struck a chord in rural Ireland is that there are cultural similarities e.g. religious fundamentalism, agriculture and also emigration. This is a song about a guy leaving the South to work in the industrial cities of the North have their counterparts but he could have as easily been someone from Mayo or Galway making the cars and the bars in Coventry or Wolverhampton.

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sonofstan - October 19, 2013

Love that song. There used to be an Indian restaurant on Dorset St. back in the early ’80s where, if you knew what to ask for, you could get served terrible wine long after closing time. This, and 500 miles were regular plays on the jukebox, a jukebox that would fall silent every now and then when a few musicians that would include Johnny Moynihan would assemble and play for the (very) motley clientele – though chiefly for themselves.

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7. eamonncork - October 19, 2013

Obviously, though, it’s disappointing to see you all being so old fashioned and focussing on the regrettable proletarian side of emigration. What about today’s new breed of highly educated Irish who welcome the chance to sell their skills in the global market? Surely you know the ballad, “There are wonderful opportunities here for anyone prepared to think outside the box going forward.”

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WorldbyStorm - October 19, 2013

Interesting that no one has written a song along those lines… that we know of.

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8. Garibaldy - October 19, 2013

Not the most fun song to listen to, but certainly gets the point across.

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9. doctorfive - October 19, 2013

Pack it up, pack it in. Let me begin

Always liked this clip of the Clancys & Makem with JFK

One of best things about the Pogues and others is you got the voice of emigrant as well as youth. Especially questions of identity and that worst of both worlds that comes with being second generation.

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10. Séamus - October 21, 2013

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