The good ship Cambria, song

Charlie Somers, singing in English
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You Irishmen both one and all, wherever you may be,
It’s raise your voice in sorrow now and mourn along with me
For the loss of our good ship Cambria that has sunk to rise no more
With a hundred and seventy-nine on board bound for the Shamrock Shore.

On the ninth day of October last from New York we set sail
On board the gallant Cambria with a sweet and pleasant gale.

For ten days and nights we ploughed the seas, no danger did we fear,
Unto our native Irish coasts in sight they did appear.

Both man and boy did loudly cry, – Our toils and trouble’s o’er,
We’ll shortly meet our loving friends around the Shamrock Shore.

Then down below we all did go to wait for morning clear,
When a dreadful shock against a rock it filled our hearts with fear.

The passengers all rushed on deck and stormy seas did roar
And women’s cries did reach the skies as they sank to rise no more.

Then fore and aft our seamen rushed, but fiercely rolled the tide,
– Hands stand clear! four boats were hoist and launched across the side.

Both men and women they were filled with sorrow, I deplore,
But only one survivor ever reached the Shamrock Shore.

Well, it’s grief and sorrow may prevail when the news spread far and wide
That our gallant Cumbria of New York had sunk beneath the tide.

When our good ship she was sinking fast and far from earthly aid
The reverend father Bain on the deck he kneeled and prayed

To He that rules both sea and land these precious lives to save
And all his faithful followers: all sunk beneath the wave.

Oh, there’s many’s a widow and her child in sorrow may deplore
And sisters weep and mothers mourn for friends they’ll never see more.

But Armagh, Tyrone and Derry and the county Donegal,
Cavan, Antrim does lament its loss both one and all;

Sligo, Mayo in grief and woe, while Galway does deplore
For the wreck of the Cambria passenger that has (spoken) sunk to rise no more.


On the night of 15 October 1870 the Crown and Anchor line steamer Cambria from New York foundered off Malin Head on Inishtrahull (or according to Bonner p. 244 on the nearby Garrive isles. The circumstances of the wreck, it appears, were much as the song describes them. ‘The vessel, it appears, which was under sail and steam, and proceeding at a rapid pace, struck on Inistrahull, a dangerous island, guarded with lighthouses . . . The vessel immediately commenced to fill, a tremendous hole having been made in her bottom.’ – Annual register: 1870, London 1871, II 124–7. Passengers were bound for Derry, Glasgow and Liverpool. The song was composed soon after the event in northwest Ireland – if we judge from 2.1 and from the counties that ‘lament’ in 13–14  – but perhaps not in Inishowen itself in view of the absence of any localizing comment.