The green fields of America, song

Tom Anderson, singing in English
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Farewell to old Ireland, the land of my childhood,
Now  and forever I am shortly going to leave,
Farewell to the shore where the shamrock’s adorting,
It’s the bright place of pleasure and the home of the brave.

It’s hard to be forced from the lands that we do live in,
Our houses and our farms we are obliged to sell,
To wander away amongst wild Indians and strangers
For to seek out a comfort for our children to dwell.

I hae a wee lassie, I fain would take her with me,
Her dwelling-place at present lies in the county Down,
And it would break my heart for to leave her behind me,
Oh, so we will roam together this wide world around.

So come away Betsy, my ain blue-eyed wee lassie,
Bid farewell to your mother, love, and then come with me,
I will do my endeavour to keep your sweet mind cheery,
Oh, to we reach the green fields of America.

Our good ship she’s lying below Londonderry
To bear us away over that wide swelling sea,
May the heavens be her pilot and grant her fresh breezes,
Oh, to we reach the green fields of America.

We’ll get brandy in New Quebec at ten cents a quart, boys,
Rum in New Brunswick a penny by the glass,
We’ll get wine in that little town you call Montreal
And so inn after inn we will drink as we pass.

So fill us a bumper of  strong wine, ale and brandy,
We’ll each drink a health, oh, to them we left on shore
And we’ll each drink a health to our friends in dear old Ireland,
So we will plough the green fields of America.


A broadside song with this title is still sung beginning ‘Farewell to the land of shillelagh and shamrock’; the two are similar in form, style, motivation, even melody, yet quite distinct in matter. The broadside speaks more bitterly of oppression, failure of trade and hunger; the Magilligan song looks like a mitigated Ulster adaptation of it. In 1969, Tom had no trouble recalling this coherent version of seven quatrains, which he attributed to his father, grandfather, and a neighbour Jim Kane (cf. A). But already in 1954 Eddie Butcher knew of a text nearly twice as long (B), which he tried to restore in 1966, producing a collaborative fragment with his sister-in-law Maria and brother John. Again in 1969 I recorded a collaborative version, short but complete, from his nephew Robert and himself: all the 1966 verses with four others not sung by Tom, see Notes. Robert began solo and was disposed to stop at Tom’s v. 5, but Eddie had joined him in this verse and went on without him to sing Tom’s v. 4, not yet sung. After this Robert re-entered and sang v. 6 without Eddie and the improvised antiphony concluded with v. 7 in duet.