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O’Reilly to America
(Laws M8; Roud 270)
Austin Flanagan
Luogh, Doolin
Recorded in singer's home, August 1974

Carroll Mackenzie Collection


As I roved out one evening down by a riverside,
It was there I spied a damsel as the tears rolled from her eyes;
Saying, “This is a dark and stormy night”, those words to me did say,
“My love lies on the raging seas bound for Americay.”

“My love he is a tall young man, his age is scarce eighteen;
He is the nicest young man that ever your eyes have seen;
My father, he has riches great, but O’Reilly, he is poor;
Although I love my sailor boy, they cannot me endure.”

“O’Reilly is my true-love’s name, live near the town of Bray;
My mamma took me by the hand and those words to me did say;
Saying, “If you be fond of O’Reilly, let him quit this country;
For your father says he’ll have his life or shun his company.”

“Oh mother dear, don’t be severe, where will I send my love?
For my heart lies in his bosom as constant as a dove.”
“Oh daughter dear, I’m not severe, here is five hundred pounds;
Send O’Reilly to Americay and purchase there some ground.”

So when she got the money to O’Reilly she did run;
Saying, “This very night, to take your life, my father charged his gun.
Here is five hundred pounds in gold, my mamma sent to you;
So sail away to Americay and I will follow you.”

So when he got his foot on board these were the words he said;
Saying, “Here is a true-lover's token, I will break it into two;
Saying, “Half my heart and half my ring until I find out you.”

They were not long sailing, but scarcely three days,
When O’Reilly, he came back again to take his love away.
The ship got wrecked and all was lost and her father grieved full sore;
He found Reilly in her arms and they drowned upon the shore.

He found a letter in her breast and it was wrote with blood;
Saying, “Cruel was my father who thought to shoot my love;
So this may be a warning to all maidens fair so gay;
Don’t ever let the lad you love sail to Americay.”


"While widely acknowledged to be of Irish origin, this has been also found all over Britain and the United States, and was, according to Frank Purslow, printed by all the important broadside presses. Frank Purslow suggested in his note to the Hampshire version that the final verse had ‘been added by a printer’s hack who could not bear to see a song without a colourful and slightly moralising ending’.
Ref: ‘The Constant Lovers’, Frank Purslow, EFDSS Publications, 1972
Other recordings: George Dunn, ‘Chainmaker’, Musical Traditions MTCD317-8"

The above commentary, lyrics and recording are taken from ‘Around the Hills of Clare: Songs and Recitations from the Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie Collection’ (2004) Musical Traditions Records MTCD331-2/Góilín Records 005-6.

See also
O'Reilly to America sung by Pat MacNamara

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