Emigrant Songs


Patience. Fortitude. Long-suffering

In the bruise-coloured dusk of the New World. 

And all the old songs. And nothing to lose.

From Eavan Boland, 'The Emigrant Irish' (Boland, E. (1995) Collected Poems Manchester: Carcanet).

In Ireland's rich tradition of music and song, emigration is one of the big themes. A large body of material exists, in English and Irish, both in Ireland itself and throughout the Irish diaspora. As well as traditional songs such as Skibbereen, Streams of Bunclody, The Kilnamartyra Exile and Sliabh Geal gCua na Féile, many other pieces composed as 'parlour songs' in Victorian times have since entered into the tradition. Percy French's Mountains of Mourne and Helen Selena Blackwood (Sheridan)'s Lament of an Irish Emigrant are examples. 

Continuing emigration in the 1950s, the 1980s and down to the present day has ensured the continuation of a strong tradition of composition, with many new songs becoming part of an enduring repertoire. Pete St John's 1970s composition The Fields of Athenry, about the Great Famine, is sung around the world wherever Irish people gather and has already taken on the timeless quality of the traditional song, a classic in its own age. But many sentimental songs of emigration from the late 19th to the mid-20th century, such as The Old Bog Road and Boys from the County Mayo, are also still sung today.

A variety of themes is evoked in these songs - the beauty of the home place, nostalgia, loss, the pain of departure and exile, but also anger and even bitterness - Black 47's Livin' in America 

and the Pogues' iconic Fairy Tale of New York are examples from the modern period. There are relatively few songs in the Irish tradition which celebrate emigration as opportunity, challenge and a better life.

The list which follows is in no way intended to be definitive or exhaustive or especially scholarly. The intention is simply to give a flavour of the range and different styles of songs dealing with Irish emigration and as far as possible to provide links to accessible versions of these songs. We welcome additional material!

DISCLAIMER: all of the links below are provided in good faith to publicly accessible material on Youtube and other sites; we do not own the copyright to the content. If any of these is the subject of a copyright dispute please contact us.

Piaras Mac Éinrí

Click singer or band to listen to versions of the songs

  1. A Mother's Love's a Blessing
    Bridie Gallagher
  2. An Emigrant's Daughter
    Machair Folk
  3. Apple of my Eye
    Damian Dempsey
  4. Arranmore
    Goats don't shave
  5. As I leave behind Neidín
    Mary Black and Jimmy McCarthy
    Tommy Fleming 
  6. A Stór mo chroí
  7. Amhráin Leeds
    Mícheál Sonny Ó Confhaola
  8. Bán Cnoic Éireann Ó
    Skara Brae
  9. Banks of Claudy
    Loreena McKennitt
  10. Boys from the County Mayo
    Colm O'Donnell
  11. Bundlin (Ramble the Bushes of Australia)
    Sean Keane 
  12. By the Hush
    Andy M. Stewart
  13. City of Chicago
    Christy Moore
  14. Cliffs of Dooneen
    Christy Moore
    Mary Duff
    Tommy Fleming
  15. Come Back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff
    Brendan O'Dowda
    Paddy Reilly
  16. Come by the Hills
    Loreena McKennitt
  17. Craigie Hill
    Cara Dillon
  18. Cutting the corn in Creeslough
    Bridie Gallagher
  19. Deoraí Tír an Fhia
    John Beag Ó Flatharta
  20. Did your mother come from Ireland?
    Gracie Fields
  21. Don't forget your shovel
    Christy Moore
  22. Emigrant Eyes
    Dolores Keane
  23. Erin Grá mo Chroí
    Colm O'Donnell 
  24. Exile's Return
    Karan Casey and John Doyle
  25. Fairy Tale of New York
    The Pogues and Kirsty McColl
  26. Far Away in Australia
    Dolores Keane
  27. Feck the Celtic Tiger
    Sir Reg
  28. Fields of Athenry
    Dubliners and Paddy Reilly
    Drop Kick Murphys
    Ireland v Spain, Euro2012, Gdansk
  29. From Clare to Here
    Ralph McTell
    Nancy Griffith
  30. Galway Bay
    Dolores Keane
  31. Generation Lost
    Fergus Ahern
  32. Gleanntáin Glas Ghaoth Dobhair
    Paul Brady
  33. Goodbye Johnny Dear
    Bridie Gallagher
  34. Goodbye Muirsheen Durkin
  35. Gortnamona
    Brendan O'Dowda
  36. Green and Red of Mayo
    Saw Doctors
  37. Green Fields of Gweedore
  38. Green Fields Round Ferbane
    P.J. Murrihy
  39. Groves of Kilteevan
    Rig the Jig
  40. Heaven around Galway Bay
    Bridie Gallagher
  41. Home Away from Home
    Sean Keane 
  42. Homes of Donegal
    Paul Brady and Hiroshi Yamaguchi
  43. I am a youth that's inclined to ramble
    Paul Brady
  44. If we only had old Ireland over here
    Foster and Allen
  45. I'll take you home again Kathleen
    Joseph Locke
  46. I'm leaving Tipperary (Goodbye Mick)
    De Danann 
  47. Irish Blood, English Heart
  48. I wish I was back home in Derry
    Christy Moore
  49. Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears
    Irish Tenors
    Seán Keane
    Willie Kiely
  50. Isle of Inishfree
    Paul Larson
    Dublin City Ramblers
  51. Kilkelly, Ireland
    Clancy Brothers and Robbie O'Connell
  52. Lament of the Irish Emigrant
    Raylene Rankin 
  53. Life in England
    Dexie's Midnight Runners 
  54. Livin' in America
    Black 47
  55. Litir ó mo mhéit
    John Beag Ó Flatharta
  56. Manana in Manhattan
    Pierce Turner
  57. Mary from Dungloe
    Christy Moore and Daniel O'Donnell
  58. McAlpine's Fusiliers
    Luke Kelly
  59. Many Young Men of Twenty said Goodbye
  60. Missing You
    Christy Moore
  61. Mo Mhéit ag filleadh abhaile
    Sean Beag Ó Flatharta
  62. Moonlight in Mayo
    Bridie Gallagher
  63. Mountains of Mourne
    Charlie Landsborough
    Don McLean
  64. My Donegal  Shore
    Big Tom
  65. My Little Son (England's Motorways)
    Luke Kelly
    Mary Keenan
  66. My Love is in America
    Dolores Keane
  67. No Irish Need Apply
    Tommy Makem et al
  68. N17
    Saw Doctors
  69. Na Connerys
    Liam Ó Maonlaí
  70. Nothing but the same old story
    Paul Brady
  71. Paddy's Green Shamrock Shore
    Andy Irvine and Paul Brady
  72. Paddy's Lamentation
    Sinéad O'Connor
  73. Pat Murphy's Meadow (Newfoundland)
    Lew Murphy 
  74. Pócaí Folamh, Cloigeann Tinn
    John Beag Ó Flatharta agus na nAincéirí
  75. Ramblin' Irishman
    Mick Daniels  
    Annemarie O'Riordan
  76. Shores of Amerikay
  77. Shores of Botany Bay
    Noel McLoughlin
  78. Skibbereen
    Sinéad O'Connor
  79. Slán le Máigh
    Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh
  80. Sliabh Geal gCua na Féile
    Mary Greene
  81. Slieve Gallion Braes
    Dolores Keane
  82. Spancil Hill
    Christy Moore
  83. Streams of Bunclody
    Luke Kelly
  84. Teddy O'Neill
    Dolores Keane
  85. That Tumble-down Shack in Athlone
    John McCormack
  86. Tide Full In
  87. Helen Chinn
  88. The Blue Hills of Antrim
    The Friel Sisters 
  89. The Boys of Bárr na Sráide
    Christy Moore
  90. The Green Fields of America
    Andy Irvine and Planxty
  91. The Green Fields of Canada
    Cherish the Ladies and Heidi Talbot
  92. The Home I left Behind
    Mary Keenan 
  93. The Holy Ground
    Clancy Brothers
  94. The Irish Emigrant
    John McCormack
  95. The JCB Song
    Seamus Moore 
  96. The Little Old Mud Cabin
    Eileen Donaghy
  97. The Kilmartyra Exile
    Máire Ní Chéileachair
  98. The Maid of Culmore
    Cara Dillon
  99. The Old Bog Road
    Johnny McEvoy  
    Hank Locklin
    Eileen Donaghy 
  100. The Offaly Rover
    Derek McCormack
  101. The Shamrock Shore
    Paul Brady
  102. Thousands are Sailing
    The Pogues
  103. Trasna na dTonnta
    Na Casadaigh
  104. Tunnel Tigers
    Sean Keane 
  105. Van Diemen's Land
  106. When first unto this country
  107. Where the River Shannon Flows
    John McCormack 

Wild Colonial Boy
Clancy  Brothers
Dr Hook


Emigre Department of Geography University College Cork College Road Cork Ireland