Saint Patricks Day 17 March 2019. Erin grá mo chroi. Ireland Love of My Heart. ‘When Saint Patrick’s Day has come, my thoughts will carry me home’. Is the famous seashore in the song truly ‘Rockaway Beach, Queens, New York City’ ?

Erin grá mo chroí – Ireland Love of my Heart

Just in time for St Patricks Day, here is some information on a beautiful, sad, lament on the leaving of Ireland of an emigrant to New York City, for a new and hopefully, better life, to escape the ravishes of poverty and starvation in Ireland. But our protagonist longs for home, to return to the ‘land Saint Patrick blessed’. This is a truly sad and evocative song full of sadness, replaying the desperate plight of the people of Ireland, Erin in poetry. Lets reasonably assume our emigrant is a young lady sent by her family to New York to join relatives and friends already there, never to return home again to Ireland. Truly, it brings tears to my eyes when I hear this song introduced to me by my friend Edina from Hungary just nearly two years ago.

‘On the day that I did part, sure it broke my mother’s heart’. ‘Will I ever see my dear folks anymore ?’

It is likely that the poor child is sent to America by her family in common with so many others for a better life, emigration was encouraged and a family felt the best they could do for their children was to send them to America, perhaps to join family already there, who had made a success of their lives. Family in America would have to send the money to Ireland such as with the Adergoole 14 when the cost of sailing across the Atlantic from Ireland was about 700 pounds in today’s money for steerage class, which was about three year’s wages.

Irish traditional emigrant lament song: origin unknown: likely 19th century Ireland placing it as related to emigration to America following the Great Famine of Ireland.

Erin gra mo chroi means Ireland love of my heart and is a lament for emigrants from Ireland for their own native land. ­

I definitely cant find anything on the provenance of this song on a quick search – and just about given up for now – so will just include some really interesting information instead including the famous sea shore in the song – or a very plausible candidate ! This was relatively easy to pinpoint as the Irish settlers in New York have large communities at only two urban beaches in the city.

Irish emigration to New York City

Irish Americans first came to America in colonial years (pre-1776), with immigration rising in the 1820s due to poor living conditions in Ireland. But the largest wave of Irish immigration came after the Great Famine in 1845.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_Americans_in_New_York_City

Ellis Island, in the Upper New York Bay, was the United States’ busiest immigrant inspection station from 1892 until 1954. https://www.irishcentral.com/culture/entertainment/songs-of-irish-emigration-exile

‘For to gaze upon the scenes of New York’.

There could be two possible urban sea-shores both with large Irish emigrant communities. I chose Rockaway Beach, Queens

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rockaway_Beach,_Queens

Rockaway Beach was once known as the “Irish Riviera” because of the large Irish American population in the area.[20] The community itself has a total population of more than 13,000 people, making it the third most populated neighborhood on the peninsula.[21] As of the 2000 United States Census, 25.4% of residents in ZIP code 11693 identified themselves as having Irish ancestry, making the Rockaway Beach area the 2nd most Irish region in the whole country—right after BostonMassachusetts’s South Shore, which has roughly 38–40% of its citizens claiming Irish, or mostly Irish, ancestry.[22]

While the Manhattan skyline is visible in the distance, the beaches of Rockaway Beach seem a world away.

https://jc-findley.pixels.com/featured/a-long-way-from-manhattan-jc-findley.html

Erin grá mo chroí

Ohh Erin grá mo chrói, you’re the dear old land to me
You’re the fairest that my eyes did e’er behold
You’re the land Saint Patrick blessed
You’re the bright star of the west
You’re that dear little isle so far away

At the setting of the sun, when my long day’s work was done
I rambled down the seashore for a walk
And I being all alone I sat down upon a stone
For to gaze upon the scenes of New York

Oh Erin grá mo chrói, you’re the dear old land to me
You’re the fairest that my eyes have ever seen
And if ever I go home, it’s from you I never will roam
You’re my own native land so far away

With the turf fire burning bright on a cold dark winter’s night
And the snow flakes falling gently to the ground
When Saint Patrick’s Day has come, my thoughts will carry me home
To that dear little isle so far away.

Oh Erin grá mo chrói, you’re the dear old land to me
You’re the fairest that my eyes have ever seen
You’re the land Saint Patrick blessed
You’re the bright star of the west
You’re that dear little isle so far away

On the day that I did part, well it broke my mother’s heart
Will I never see my dear ones anymore?
Not until my bones are laid in the cold and silent grave
In my own native land so far away

Oh Erin grá mo chrói, you’re the dear old land to me
You’re the fairest that my eyes have ever seen
And if ever I go home, it’s from you I never will roam
You’re my own native land so far away
You’re my own native land so far away

Historical context if the song is related to emigration to America after the Great Famine of Ireland

The Great Irish Famine in Songs Erick Falc’her-Poyroux, « The Great Irish Famine in Songs », Revue Française de Civilisation Britannique [Online], XIX-2 | 2014, Online since 01 May 2015, connection on 30 September 2016. URL : http:// rfcb.revues.org/277 ; DOI : 10.4000/rfcb.277

‘Those in power write the history, those who suffer write the songs’ Frank Harte (1933-2005), sleeve notes for 1798: the First Year of Liberty’

‘However biased a view the opening quote by Irish traditional singer and collector Frank Harte may represent, an analysis of folk songs about the Great Irish Famine deserves careful study, as one will find in them views that are often told from palpable and vivid experience, and traces of Irish history often described as dry statistics, rather than the human tragedy it really was. It is generally considered that very few songs from the famine era have survived: it is indeed a testimony to the power and importance of traditional music and songs, and remarkably so in Ireland, that illiterate people on the threshold of exile or death could find the strength to express their misfortunes in such a poetic and elaborate form’

The sufferings of Ireland between 1845 and 1850 could however hardly be overestimated, and the effects can still be felt in everyday life after more than 150 years: with well over 8 million inhabitants on the island in 1841 and a little under 6.5 million today, Ireland is the only place in Europe whose population has decreased since the 1840s. By comparison, the population of England (c. 13.6 million in 1841) has almost quadrupled, to c. 53 million today.46

A musical context

‘Ireland has had an exceptional musical reputation for centuries, and a refined instrument, the harp, has served as its national symbol since at least the thirteenth century. Even in the poorer classes, music was an important part of Irish everyday life, as evidenced by the accounts left to us by numerous witnesses, mostly from the eighteenth century onwards: All the poor people, both men and women, learn to dance, and are exceedingly fond of the amusement. A ragged lad, without shoes or stockings, has been seen in a mud barn, leading up a girl in the same trim for a minuet: the love of dancing and musick are almost universal amongst them.’

‘The second and most popular type of folk singing today in Ireland, however, is a genre called ‘ballad singing’: it is a slightly later development which was extremely popular all over Europe and appeared in urban Ireland during the 17th century, probably under the influence of Scottish settlers, mostly in the northern part of the island. It is generally sung in English and tells a story on the classic themes of love, money, drinking, emigration, but also on more political themes: The ballad as it exists is not a ballad save when it is in oral circulation […]. Defined in the simplest terms, the ballad is a folk-song that tells a story. […] What we have come to call a ballad is always a narrative, is always sung to a rounded melody and is always learned from the lips of others rather than by reading.’

Songs in the Irish Language

‘A traditional song, often being the work of an anonymous or forgotten author, can naturally be regarded as the representative expression of a community; and, being still sung by subsequent generations, will have successfully passed the test of time. Its continuous handling down from generation to generation ensures that the feeling is an enduring one.’

Thread from mudcat.org

In reverse chronological order: https://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=16424&messages=54#3981413

  1. Tom Lenihan learned the song from a ’semi-itinerant street singer-ballad seller Billy Nevin from Kilrush some time in the early 1930s – he heard him singing it while selling ballads at the local street cattle market.
    Not sure how old Bully was, but everyone here (in Miltown Malbay) refers to him being ‘old’ – he was tragically killed in a road accident circa 1935, which would but his date of birth somewhere in the early half on the 19th century (1860/70)
    The practice of ballad sellers was to write out for, or recite the songs they sold to a printer who produced them to order.
    If Nevin followed this practice, and if Tom’s version is the sole traditional source it is highly probable that the song came from oral tradition rather than from another printed source
  2. Checked Wright’s ‘Irish Emigrant Songs and Ballads’ – surprisingly the song isn’t included.
    Re-listening to our recording, I’m convinced that it’s a pre-famine song, though ITMA should be able to confirm or deny this.
    https://www.itma.ie/
  3. Most of the songs of this type came in the latter half of the 19th century and I am cfairly certain this is the case here

Postscript

ERIN GRÁ MO CHROÍ
as sung by Joe Heaney

Ive included this as the mudcat.org thread seems to think it could shed light on the origins of the song but it cannot. I also could not find a video for this.

https://www.joeheaney.org/en/erin-gra-mo-chroi/

http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/heaney3.htm

Vaughn Williams Memorial Library

This has no information on the origins of the song.


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