A rarely heard, full traditional version of Skibbereen, focussing on a conversation between a young son and his father. The question is posed by the son: Why did you leave Ireland (Skibbereen)?
Known as the grandaddy of all Irish famine songs actually written in that era, Skibbereen is a town in Co. Cork, Ireland. The facts are well documented in newspapers and journals of the day. Eviction, starvation, disease, bodies at the side of the road, the scenes were horrific.
This full version of Skibbereen is traditional, and is sung here by Mike O'Laughlin. Lyrics to this version are found below. It can be found on the album "Irish Song: Traditional & Sean Nós".
Oh, Father dear, I oft times hear you talk of Erin's Isle,
Her lofty scenes, her valleys green, her mountains rude and wild
They say it is a pretty place where in a prince might dwell,
Oh, then why did you abandon it, the reason do me tell?
Oh, son I loved my native land with energy and pride
'Til a blight came upon my crops, and the sheep and cattle died,
The rent and taxes were so pay, I could not them redeem,
And that's the cruel reason why, I left old Skibbereen.
Oh, It's well I do remember, that cold December day,
The landlord and the sheriff came, to drive us all away
They set my roof on fire, with their demon yellow spleen
And that's another reason why I left old Skibbereen.
Your mother too, God rest her soul, fell on the snowy ground,
She fainted o'er in anguish, desolation all around.
She did not rise, but passed away, from life to immortal dream,
She found a quiet grave, my boy, in dear old Skibbereen.
And you were only two years old and feeble was your frame,
I could not leave you with my friends, for you bore your father's name,
I wrapped you in my cóta mór in the dead of night unseen
and heaved a sigh, and said goodbye, to dear old Skibbereen
Its well I do remember, the year of '48
When erins sons they rose again
to battle against their fate
I was hunted through the mountains
as a traitor to the queen
And thats another reason why
I left old Skibbereen.
Oh father dear, the day will come when vengeance loud will call
and Erins sons will rally round, together one and all
and I will be the man to lead the van, beneath the flag of green
And loud and high we'll raise the cry,
Revenge for Skibbereen!