The banks of Kilrea, song

Jimmy Butcher, singing in English
© Item in copyright  (contact for information on re-use)
Downloads: PDF |  Metadata (Dublin Core)


One evening for my recreation as I strayed by the lovely Moss Bann
A couple were in conversation, it caused me there for to stand,
A young man was coaxing his darling, inviting her kindly away
And she vowed she would not leave her parents all alone on the banks of Kilrea.

He says,– Love, you’re one of the fairest, my heart you have wounded full sore,
Come, we’ll leave this land of oppression and old Ireland we’ll never see more.
And if you consent to go with me your passage I’m able to pay
And we’ll reap the fruits of our labour far far from the banks of Kilrea.

She says then, – It’s folly to flatter, I never will cross o’er the main,
There is danger in crossing deep water, so therefore your coaxing’s in vain,
For at home I have peace and I have plenty, my passage I am able to pay
And I’ll reap the fruits of our labour here at home on the banks of Kilrea.

He says then, – It’s don’t you remember the promise you made unto me?
It was in the month of November, we were talking of crossing the sea;
You said I would leave you to mourn, you invited me here for to stay
And when that the spring would return we would both leave the banks of Kilrea.

So now to conclude and to finish I mean for to leave down my pen,
Here’s a health to the lovely Bann water and the fair maids around the Bridge end;
Farewell to my comrades forever for it’s now I am going away
And you’ll never see my face again, never, on the lovely sweet banks of Kilrea.


Kilrea, on the Derry side of the lower Bann, is the setting of this song in all but one of the few known versions. Social conditions of the nineteenth century are fitted into an older framework so that the dialogue which the poet eavesdropper overhears (see p. 22) is an emigrant’s farewell. Eddie, John and Jimmy Butcher all sang this song – Jimmy said he learned it from John – so it is worth noting the main textual variants of the two versions not published (D, F). Their flowery air is a favourite in Ulster folk tradition, though little known to the modern general public.