American Wake

by Patrick Clifford

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1.
The island it is silent now But the ghosts still haunt the waves And the torch lights up a famished man Who fortune could not save Did you work upon the railroad Did you rid the streets of crime Were your dollars from the white house Were they from the five and dime Did the old songs taunt or cheer you And did they still make you cry Did you count the months and years Or did your teardrops quickly dry Ah, no, says he, 'twas not to be On a coffin ship I came here And I never even got so far That they could change my name CHORUS: Thousands are sailing Across the western ocean To a land of opportunity That some of them will never see Fortune prevailing Across the western ocean Their bellies full Their spirits free They'll break the chains of poverty And they'll dance In Manhattan's desert twilight In the death of afternoon We stepped hand in hand on Broadway Like the first man on the moon And "The Blackbird" broke the silence As you whistled it so sweet And in Brendan Behan's footsteps I danced up and down the street Then we said goodnight to Broadway Giving it our best regards Tipped our hats to Mister Cohan Dear old Times Square's favorite bard Then we raised a glass to JFK And a dozen more besides When I got back to my empty room I suppose I must have cried CHORUS: Thousands are sailing Again across the ocean Where the hand of opportunity Draws tickets in a lottery Postcards we're mailing Of sky-blue skies and oceans From rooms the daylight never sees Where lights don't glow on Christmas trees But we dance to the music And we dance CHORUS: Thousands are sailing Across the western ocean Where the hand of opportunity Draws tickets in a lottery Where e'er we go, we celebrate The land that makes us refugees From fear of Priests with empty plates From guilt and weeping effigies And we dance copyright 1988 Phillip Chevron
2.
02:27
3.
I'm bidding farewell to the land of my youth And the home that I love so well And the mountains grand of my own native land I'm bidding them all farewell With an aching heart I'll bid them adieu For tomorrow we sail far away O'er the raging foam, to seek a home On the shores of Amerikay It's not for the want of employment I'm going It's not for the want of fame For fortune bright to shine over me And give me a glorious name It's not for the want of employment I'm going O'er the dreary and stormy sea But to seek a home for my own true love On the shores of Amerikay And when I am bidding my last farewell The tears like rain will fall To think of my friends in my own native land And my home back in old Ireland so small But if I'm to die on a far foreign shore And be buried so far, far away No fond mother's tears will be shed o'er my grave On the shores of Amerikay
4.
As I rode down through Galway Town To seek for recreation On the seventeenth of August Me mind being elevated There were multitudes assembled With their tickets at the station Me eyes began to dazzle And they're off to see the races CHORUS: With me whack fol the do fol the diddlely idle ay There were passengers from Limerick And passengers from Nenagh The boys from Connemara And the Clare unmarried maidens There were people from Cork City Who were loyal, true and faithful Who brought home the Fenian prisoners From dying in foreign nations And it's there you'll see the gamblers With the thimbles and the garters The sporting Wheel of Fortune With the four and twenty quarters There was others without scruple Pelting wattles at poor Maggy And her father well contented To be gazing on his daughter And it's there you'll see the pipers And the fiddlers competing The nimble-footed dancers And they tripping on the daisies There was others shouting cigars and lights And bills for all the races With the colors of the jockey And the price and horses' ages And it's there you'll see the jockeys And they mounted at their stations The pink, the blue, the orange and green The colors of all the nations When the bell was rung for starting The horses seemed impatient You’d think they’d never once touched the ground Their speed was that amazing There were half a million people there Of all denominations The Catholic, the Lutheran The Jew and Presbyterian And yet no animosity No matter what persuasion But fáilte, hospitality, And peace throughout the nation
5.
03:38
Sea-Fever, by John Masefield I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by, And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking, And a grey mist on the sea's face and a grey dawn breaking. I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied; And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying, And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying. I must go down to the seas again to the vagrant gypsy life. To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife; And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover, And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.
6.
I'm on my way down to the quay Where the big ship at anchor lays To command a gang of navvys I was told to engage I thought I'd drop in for a drink Before I went away For to take a trip on an emigrant ship To the shores of Botany Bay CHORUS: Farewell to your bricks and mortar Farewell to your dirty lime Farewell to your gangway and your gang plank To hell with your overtime For the good ship Ragamuffin Is lying at the quay For to take old Pat with a shovel on his back To the shores of Botany Bay The boss came up this morning He says "Well, Pat you know If you didn't get your navvys out I'm afraid you'll have to go" So I asked him for my wages I demanded all my pay And I told him straight I was going to emigrate To the shores of Botany Bay And when I reach Australia I'll go and I'll look for gold There's plenty there for digging up Or so I have been told Or else I'll go back to my trade Eight hundred bricks I'll lay And eight bob I'll lift for an eight-hour shift On the shores of Botany Bay
7.
8.
Farewell to you, my own true love, I am going far, far away I am bound for California, Though I know that I'll return someday CHORUS: So fare thee well, my own true love When I return united we will be It's not the leaving of Liverpool that's grieving me But my darling when I think of thee I am bound on a Yankee sailing ship, Davy Crockett is her name, Her Captain's name is Burgess, And they say that she's a floating shame I have sailed with Burgess once before I think I know him well If a man's a sailor, he will get along If he’s not, then he's sure in Hell Now the sun is on the harbour, love, I wish I could remain, For I know that it will be a long, long time, Before I see you again
9.
05:14
Last night as I lay dreaming Of pleasant days gone by My mind being bent on rambling To Ireland I did fly I stepped on board a vision And I followed with a will And shortly came to anchor at The cross in Spancil Hill It been on the twenty-third of June The day before the fair When Irelands sons and daughters And friends assembled there The young, the old, the brave and the bold Came their duty to fulfill At the parish church in Clooney A mile from Spancil Hill I went to see my neighbours To hear what they might say The old ones were all dead and gone The young ones turning grey But I met the tailor Quigley He's as bold as ever still Sure, he used to make me britches When I lived at Spancil Hill I paid a flying visit To my first and only love She's as white as any lily And gentle as a dove And she threw her arms around me Saying: "Johnny I love you still" Ah, she's Ned the farmer's daughter And the pride of Spancil Hill I dreamt I held and kissed her As in the days of yore Ah, Johnny you're only joking As many's the time before Then the cock crew in the morning He crew both loud and shrill I awoke in California Many miles from Spancil Hill
10.
Oh then fare thee well sweet Donegal, the Rosses and Gweedore I'm crossing o’er the main ocean where the foaming billows roar It breaks my heart from you to part where I spent many happy days Farewell to kind relations, I am bound for Amerikay Oh then Mary you're my heart's delight, my pride and only care It was your cruel father who would not let me to stay here But absence makes the heart grow fond, and when I am over the main May the Lord protect my darling girl, 'till I return again Oh I wish I was in sweet Dungloe and seated on the grass And by my side a bottle of wine, and on my knee a lass I'd call for liquour of the best, and I'd pay before I'd go And I'd roll my Mary in my arms, in the town of sweet Dungloe
11.
12.

about

For Carmel

On a brisk spring day about ten years ago, I spoke with my mother over steaming cups of Barry’s Tea in the kitchen of my first house in Cranford, NJ.

An uncle had recently retired and returned to County Kerry, after 40 years’ living and working in the U.S. This cycle seems to have always been enshrined as the emigrants' dream: Rest and reward at home after a life of labor in exile. Even after the days of the American Wake, it was rare, a miracle of sorts, to actually return from the great beyond.

I recalled that Mom had landed, here in the great beyond (at Idlewild Airport, to be precise), mere days before Kennedy was shot. To her credit, she refused to see this as an omen; within a decade, she had become a citizen.

"I suppose you'll be doing the same one of these days," I said. “Going back, I mean.”

She sipped, then shook her head slowly. "No," she said. "I couldn't leave America now. I'm changed too much."

She couldn’t have known it, but with those words, she made me two things I had never entirely considered myself before: The son of an American, and certain of where I belonged.

And now, with this collection, including some of the favorites I managed to sneak past Customs, I hope she’s reassured that we didn't arrive here empty-handed.

Patrick Clifford
August 2010

credits

released August 25, 2010

Produced and performed by Patrick Clifford.

Thanks:
Jane, sine qua non— my best collaborator, my dearest friend, my own true love; Grace and Bennett, who make it all matter; Seamus, Kevin, and Bernadette, for the first years; Martin, Dave, and Keith, for the first miles.

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ABOUT THE TITLE

An American Wake took place in an Irish home the night before a family member emigrated (usually to America), and included the same conjunction of sorrow and glad memories common to a traditional wake for the deceased. Friends and neighbors would come to say their last goodbyes, and to console the grieving parents.

At the time-- that is, the late nineteenth and early twentieth century-- ocean travel and life abroad were dangerous, communications were unreliable, and most poor Irish were illiterate. This night would have been not only the last time they might see each other, but also the last time they might even hear from each other, so the parting often felt as final as death.

The emigrant's steamer trunk was sometimes placed on a table, like a coffin on a bier.

For a powerful rendering of the event, read "The Year 1912," from The Road to Brightcity, by Máirtín Ó Cadhain.

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“Thousands Are Sailing” by Philip Thomas Ryan (PRS), published by Wardlaw Music (BMI).

“The Narrowback,” “Paddy Yank’s Blues,” “The Golden Door,” and music to “Sea-Fever” by Patrick Clifford (ASCAP); © 2010 The Irish Side LLC (ASCAP).

All other tracks traditional, arranged by Patrick Clifford (ASCAP); © 2010 The Irish Side LLC (ASCAP).

Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws.

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Patrick Clifford New York, New York

Patrick Clifford is an Irish-American musician, songwriter, and producer.

He performs and records Irish traditional standards; skillfully crafted original songs and compositions; and discerning covers of contemporary Irish and American songwriters such as Pete St. John, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen.

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