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The North Star
(Laws M21; Roud 1019)
Martin Howley
Fanore, north west Clare
Recorded in singer’s home, July 1975

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

Martin Howley

It was once I courted a pretty girl and she lives near Bantry Town;
She was proper, tall and handsome in every degree,
And her eyes, they shone like diamonds and her teeth like ivory.

I being a farmer’s only son, my age being scarce eighteen;
This damsel fair, she is as rare as e’er the sun shone on,
And I having plenty, and she of a low degree;
Which made my parents slight my love and prove my destiny.

They sent me to Americay my fortune for to try;
I sailed on board the 'North Star' which now on the sea does lie;
But fortune proved kind to me, a plank brought me ashore;
And I am in hopes to see my love in Bantry Town once more.

When I landed in Columbia shore, no friends there could I find,
But the thoughts of my own true love still ran into my mind.
For three long days and three long nights, the truth I’ll let you know,
Still thinking on my cruel friends, that proved my overthrow.

On the third morning, before the break of day,
A lady, she stepped up to me and those words to me did say:
“My lovely youth, tell to me the truth, what’s the cause of your misery?
Or do you belong to the human form, or where is your country?”

“I am an Irishman”, I said, “The truth I will lay down;
My parents they are wealthy and they lives near Bantry Town,
For the courting of a comely maid, they sent me far away;
And I got wrecked on the 'North Star' which now lies on the sea.”

This maid then fell in love with me as the tears came from her eye;
She says, “Are you married to the girl you left behind?
For I have gold at my command, my riches they are great;
If you join with me in wedlock bands, you'll be lord of my estate.”

“To marry you, my fair lady it’s a thing I could not do,
For I’m already promised, bound under an oath that’s true,
To another fair lady, the truth I will explain,
And there is no other on this earth could e’er my poor heart gain.”

The lady fell in deep despair and those words to me did say:
“Here is one hundred pounds in gold that’ll take you o’er the sea.
For love, I find it better than gold or earthly store.
May the angel bright guard you home tonight to your Bantry girl once more.”


"I have been unable to find any information on the sinking of the 'North Star', but an Irish broadside entitled ‘Sorrowful Lamentation on the Loss of The North Star’ describes the sinking of an Irish ship bound for America with the loss of around 470 lives. A problem presented by the broadside text is that it gives the ship as having set sail on 8th December (no year given) and fifteen days out having sunk off the Welsh coast. Martin learned his song from an Oranmore man named Michael Cahir ‘during the time of the Tans’ (1922)."

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.

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