Search

 

The Brave Volunteer

Roud #V3259 / 9784

The song tells the story of a widow lamenting the loss of her husband, whose ship sank off the shore of Galway. In this version of the song, the protagonist (whose name is Henry) leaves to seek his fortune, but how remains unclear. Another version of the song, recorded on a 19th-century ballad sheet held in the Bodleian Libraries (Bod7845) specifies that Henry has volunteered to fight as a mercenary for a Portuguese king.

Listen to Henry Campbell sing “The Brave Volunteer,” view Aidan O'Hara's transcript, and download your own copy of the words.

The brave volunteer / Henry Campbell

Get the details

The brave volunteer / Henry Campbell

The brave volunteer, song (One cold stormy night in the month of December …) The song tells the story of a widow lamenting the loss of her husband, whose ship sank off the shore of Galway. In this version of the song, the protagonist (whose name is Henry) leaves to seek his fortune, but how remains unclear. Another version of the song, recorded on a 19th-century ballad sheet held in the Bodleian Libraries (Bod7845) specifies that Henry has volunteered to fight as a mercenary for a Portuguese king. 

Henry Campbell's version of “The Brave Volunteer”

One cold stormy night in the month of December,
I heard a poor widow her sad fate deplore,
There is many as the other has cause to remember,
Last Saturday night out on Gal-a-way[1] shore.

From Greenock[2] we sailed in the month of December,
And many a sad heart was left on the quay;
They were all young men five hundred in number,
And amongst them my Henry from me went away.

When I think on the spot where my love and I parted,
The thought of my true love runs strong in my mind;
So fondly we endeavoured whilst we stood broken-hearted,
Saying, ‘Henry, are you going to leave me behind?’

Oh we parted in grief, our good ship weighed her anchor,
With songs and with music the air did resound;
It was little we thought when our hearts were so merry,
We would never again see our own native land.

It was on the coast of Gal-a-way we met this disaster,
Which left in our islands many’s the wet cheek;
No enemies there could our brave heroes master,
For death was the foe that we had for to meet.

Last Saturday night as I lay on my pillow,
The wind it blew heavy and whistled in my ears;
Five hundred of the bravest overwhelmed in the billows,
Not one of them was saved in the Brave Volunteer.[3]

Where now will I seek for a home or a shelter?
Where now will I seek for a husband so kind?
Since my Henry no more will return to my arms,
A heartbroken stranger he left me behind.

Must I now remain a poor discontented widow?
Twelve months in wedlock, ‘tis plain to be seen.
Must I beg for my bread amongst hard-hearted strangers?
Kind heavens look down on my orphan and me.

Ye widows of Ireland have cause to remember,
That dark stormy night in the month of December.
When we parted our sweethearts on Gal-a-way’s shore.


[1] Editor’s note: Galway. An extra syllable has been added for the sake of the song’s rhyme and metre.
[2] Editor’s note: A coastal town in Scotland’s west central Lowlands.
[3] Editor’s note: Other versions of this song record the last line of this verse as ‘Not one of them was saved of the brave Volunteers.’ Henry Campbell’s version suggests the Brave Volunteer was the name of the ship; alternate versions, with the pluralisation of ‘Volunteers,’ suggest a fighting force.