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Blessed Christmas Day
(Roud 5220)
Martin Junior Crehan
Bonavilla, Mullagh
Recorded 1987

Carroll Mackenzie Collection


Martin Junior Crehan

Not far from Miltown Malbay if you travel south a small way,
To a place called Bonavilla in the pleasant County Clare.
Where there lived a widow lonely with her one daughter only,
Who stayed at home to care her while the rest were gone away.
Now this poor old woman weeping and her daughter she was sleeping,
Wearied from her toils, 'twas the eve of Christmas day.
They got letters, they got money, they felt lonely somehow funny,
And to her sleeping daughter these words she then did say:

“Oh then Kate a-stór, you’re sleeping while my eyes are ever weeping,
Weeping for those little ones that’s gone so far away.
Won’t you read again that letter, somehow it makes me better,
Each time I hear the news of them that’s in Amerikay.
Oh the kitchen here was full of them and one by one the lot of them,
Sailed out across that great big sea to that land so far away.
And now each little motion on the wide and fretful ocean,
Falls heavy on the mother’s heart this blessed Christmas Day.

'Tis well I do remember the bleak day in December,
When the neighbors laid your father in his narrow bed of clay.
Then I prayed God would be taken, [I prayed to God to take me],
For my heart was well near breaking,
Myself and all those little ones that Blessed Christmas Day.
But the yellow waves were shining with their creamy deep grey lining,
And they stole the children of my heart to that land so far away.
First went Dick and Nelly, then little blue-eyed Willie,
Oh ‘tis far ye’re from a mother’s care this Blessed Christmas Day.

Next went brown haired Mary herself and Tommy Carey,
Slipped down across to Father Pat before they sailed away.
It was the lucky marriage, for she’s rolling in her carriage,
Around the streets of Broadway this Blessed Christmas Day.
And that little wild lad Davy, with the flaxy hair so wavy,
He’s singing Irish songs for them tonight in old Broadway.
If I was only near him, to hear the big crowds cheer him,
‘Tis a mother’s heart would swell with pride that Blessed Christmas Day.

Now what’s the use in talking, Seánín was hardly walking,
When I saw him climb upon the cliff and look across the bay.
My bitter tears were falling, sure I knew this day was calling,
The only tree around [treasure of] my heart that Blessed Christmas Day.
But the yellow waves are shining and mo bhrón ‘tis I am pining,
To sail upon the top o’ them to that land so far away.
Won’t you read again that letter, somehow it makes me better,
Each time I hear the news of them that’s in Amerikay.

“Emigration songs have long dominated the Irish oral tradition; hardly surprising given her history. We were not prepared for the number we encountered on our first couple of trips to Clare, despite having family histories of Famine emigration. Their popularity was very quickly put into context when we were told of the American Wakes, the old man pursuing a train carrying his eldest son away from home forever down the track, or Junior Crehan’s story of ‘The Wren that went to America’, which tells of how a group of Miltown men ventured out on ‘The Wran’ on St. Stephen’s Day in the middle of a bad winter which followed an extremely poor year in the early 1900s, carried on walking until they reached Galway, bought a passage to America and never returned to Ireland. This song always evokes the descriptions we’ve been given of families standing on the coast at Spanish Point waiting to catch a glimpse of the ships sailing up from Cork and heading for America, carrying away a brother, a sister, a son or a daughter. Families have been said to have been reduced to tears on hearing it sung at a family gathering at Christmas."
Jim Carroll

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