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The Green Fields of America
(Roud 2290)
John Lyons
Recorded in London, April 1974

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

John Lyons

The ship she is sailing from fair Derry harbour,
To take us and bring us far over the main.
With good fortune to guide us, and heaven to guard us
Till we reach the green fields of Americay.

So come to the land where we can be happy,
And don’t be afraid of the storm or the rain.
For when we get over, you’ll surely discover
That this is the homeland of sweet liberty.

Now the sheep roam unsheared, and the land has gone to rushes.
The handyman is gone, and the winder of creels.
Out there on the ocean, good journeymen ploughboys
And fiddlers who flaked out the old mountain reels.

Ah, but I mind the time when old Ireland was flourishing,
And lots of her tradesmen did work for good pay.
But since our manufactories are across the Atlantic,
And we must go and follow to Americay.

There’s a gin in New Brunswick at a shilling a bottle,
There’s ale in Toronto at a penny a glass.
There’s a wine in that fair town, they call Montreal boys,
And the devil be with us, if we don’t have a glass.

So fill up your glasses, gay lads and gay lassies.
There’s gold for the winning, and lots of it too.
Success to the heart that has courage to wander,
And misfortune to those who chide us adieu.

And it’s now to conclude, and to finish my story.
If ever a friendless Irishman chances my way
With the best in the house, I will greet him in welcome,
At home on the green fields of Americay.


Conversation after the song between John Lyons, Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie:
Jim: Where did you get that from?
John: I got it from Séamus MacMathúna and he got it from a singer from Northern Ireland - Tyrone somewhere.
Jim: So you’d say it’s a northern song?
John: Oh I’d say so, yes. Well, it mentions Derry anyway in it. Probably a Derry song?

“Possibly one of the most poignantly beautiful of all the emigration songs, this probably dates from around 1820 and has become well known largely from the singing of the late Paddy Tunney. Ewan MacColl included Paddy’s singing of it on his seminal series of radio programmes, ‘The Song Carriers’ in 1965; he made this perceptive comment on his choice of speed for this song, there entitled ‘The Green Fields of Canada’:

‘Here he, Paddy Tunney, is singing an Irish exile song, ‘The Green Fields of Canada’. This highly dramatic piece is in the form of a lament. Tunney's approach to it is revealing. He uses an almost laconic style of utterance, quite unlike his usual lyrical approach. Even his voice is pitched down and the decorations (which are so to speak his personal trademark) are used very sparingly. Surprisingly, and contrary to the usual lamentation style, he takes the song at a rather brisk tempo. Now most exile songs place the singer on a foreign shore and we are asked to picture him sitting down and gazing sorrowfully across a wide expanse of sea. The mood is usually one of stillness. In ‘The Green Fields of Canada’, the singer is about to leave Ireland and Tunney's toned-down, rather brisk singing creates for us the picture of a man walking towards the quay-side where the ship waits which will carry him away from his native land. He walks quickly, not daring to turn round for fear his heart should break.’

Around the same time MacColl adapted the song slightly and used it in his music for Phillip Donellan’s film. The Irishmen’, which dealt with Irish men leaving home to work on the building sites of London.”
Jim Carroll

See also
The Green Fields of America sung by Siney Crotty

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