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Ireland: Songs of Leaving

May 13th, 2012

Lawrence C. Connolly will perform at Riley's Pour HouseEver notice how all the songs about Pittsburgh are about leaving it?

A musician friend back in the early 70s used that line to introduce the song “Six Days on the Road,” a seminal truck-driving tune made famous by Dave Dudly. It’s a terrific piece of country-rock, and I’ll be playing it this Saturday (May 19) at Riley’s Pour House – one of western Pennsylvania’s top venue’s for Irish and American music.

Of course, as good as that opening line is, I must admit that I can’t think of one other song about Pittsburgh that involves leaving it. But songs about leaving Ireland? Man, there’s a ton of those.

Let’s consider a few that I’ll be playing this Saturday.

Singer-songwriter Lawrence C. Connolly will perform at Riley's Pour HouseTopping my list is the traditional song “Leaving Liverpool” (a.k.a. “The Leaving of Liverpool” and “Fair Thee Well My Own True Love”). In spite of its title (Liverpool is in England, not Ireland) the lyrics tell of a sea voyage that most likely begins in the port of Dublin, then continues on to Liverpool and outward from there. The song’s narrator, bidding farewell to his lover and home, certainly has a long trip ahead of him, as he is “bound for California” on a ship that is either “a floating hell” or “a floating grave” (depending on the version).

“Leaving Liverpool” is often sung as a ballad, but I prefer the up-tempo version that I recorded with the Laughrey Connolly Band. That’s the version I’ll be playing this Saturday. [Click on the player below to hear “Leaving Liverpool.”]

Another leaving-Ireland favorite is “The Rambling Irishman,” a traditional tune made popular by Andy M. Stewart. “Rambling Irishman” begins much like “Leaving Liverpool,” with the narrator lamenting the leaving of “this Irish nation” and all that he loves, including his beloved Nancy. Indeed, he misses Nancy so much that he dreams of her on the ship to America. But then, when he arrives in Philadelphia, everything changes. Feeling “both stout and healthy,” be bounds into port delighted at the prospects that America has to offer – not the least of which are the women, with their “blue petticoats and white blouses.”

“The Rambling Irishman” is an up-tempo song, with an earworm refrain that is hard to shake once you hear it. The Laughrey Connolly Band recorded it for It’s All in the Song, a special Andy M. Stewart tribute album that also featured Stewart covers by Mike Gallgher, Guarenteed IrishTerry Griffith and others.

Perhaps the best known of all songs about leaving Ireland is one that is loved by some, maligned by others. Often dismissed by Irish-music purists, “Danny Boy” is narrated by a man who never leaves Ireland at all. But his son does, and the father feels the loss of that leaving for the rest of his life. I used to perform this one as a surf instrumental. Honest. And it works, too. This weekend, however, I plan to play it straight.

The Amazing Bob BanerjeeOther leaving-Ireland songs on tap for this Saturday include “Wild Colonial Boy,” “Wild Rover,” “Black Velvet Band,” and my original contribution to the cannon – the rocking “Castlegregory,” which I’ve recorded with The Laughrey Connolly Band and special guest Bob Banerjee of Corned Beef and Curry. [Click on the player below to hear “Castlegregory.”]

This upcoming show is going to be a blast. Most of my appearances since the release of Veins and the accompanying CD Veins: The Soundtrack have been book events, and I can’t wait to get out there to do a full night of live music again. Look out Pittsburgh!

If you’re anywhere in the western Pennsylvania area on May 19, I’ll hope to see you at Riley’s Pour House for a night of stories and songs about leaving Ireland. Of course, I’ll be doing some American tune as well . . . and at least one about leaving Pittsburgh.

Riley’s Pour House is an over-21 venue.

Leaving Liverpool


“Leaving Liverpool” (trad) from the CD Home from the Field, recorded in 2005 with The Laughrey Connolly Band. Lawrence C. Connolly, guitar & vocals; Chris Laughrey, guitar and backing vocals; Duane Davis, bass; Lee McGinn, drums.



“Castlegregory” (words & music Lawrence C. Connolly) from the CD Two Seas recorded in 2006 with The Laughrey Connolly Band. Lawrence C. Connolly, lead guitar and vocals; Chris Laughrey, rhythm guitar; Bob Banerjee, mandoline, Duane Davis, bass; and Lee McGinn, drums.