The Parting of Loved Ones

The Eagle's Nest, Killarney

Thomas James Mulvany, RHA

T

housands of songs highlight the themes of true love thwarted by social divisions and disapproving parents, and of emotionally distraught lovers following enforced separation. The number of these songs composed and sung throughout the late nineteenth century indicates that this was a recurring issue for young people. Countless songs also tell of lovers eloping against parental wishes. The very presence of such a huge body of song suggests that it was not unusual for young couples to break with convention and to reject social and familial expectations by going off to create a life of their own. By contrast, in some of the songs the emigrant regrets that not only is he forced to leave his native land because of poverty and lack of opportunity but also that he is leaving his loved one, perhaps forever. This anguish was a stock theme for ballad makers.

Now, Derry boys, I wish you joys 
My eyes with big tears fill
I’m bound today for Americay 
In a big ship from Moville
My time is brief, there’s no relief 
And pride must have a fall
And I’m leaving now my 
Aileen Oge My girl from Donegal
I would be glad, but times are bad, 
To work on Irish soil
But pick and spade are poorly paid 
From the Slaney to the Foyle
I’ve wandered east, I’ve wandered west 
And my luck’s gone to the wall
And I’m leaving now my Aileen Oge 
My girl from Donegal

"My Girl from Donegal"

This blog post has been extracted from Across the Western Ocean, Songs of Leaving and Arriving by Mick Moloney part of the “Famine Folios” series by Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum | Quinnipiac University Press ©2016. Visit: ighm.org/publications for more information. 

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