“Rolling Home”


The sailors are "Rolling home, rolling home, rolling home across the sea, Rolling home (to wherever home is)." They describe they voyage, the girls or whatnot they have left behind, and the joys of returning to home (and sweethearts)


Silber credits this to Charles Mackay, but the variety of verses known to me (most of which do not occur in Silber) implies that this is a genuinely traditional song. - RBW

Hugill in _Shanties from the Seven Seas_ (Mystic Seaport,1994) p. 145 says "Its origin is a bit doubtful, but most collectors seem to think it is based on a poem of Charles Mackay, written on board ship in 1858.... No one has discovered as to whether it is mentioned in any books prior to 1858; if this was the case it would more or less prove that the shanty came first."

Mackay's chorus is "Rolling home, rolling home, rolling home, dear land to thee, Rolling home to merry England, rolling home across the sea" per Leach in notes to NFMLeach. Leach thinks "MacKay used the chantey refrain [rather] than that he contributed it. Certainly the Newfoundlanders think that this chantey is older than the middle of the [19th] century." - BS

Cross references


  • Morris Houlihan, "Rolling Home" (on NFMLeach)
  • Capt. Leighton Robinson w. Alex Barr, Arthur Brodeur & Leighton McKenzie, "Rolling Home" (AFS 4230 A, 1939; on LC27; on LC27, in AMMEM/Cowell)


  1. Doerflinger, pp. 155-160, "Rolling Home" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  2. Harlow, pp. 133-136, "Rolling Home" (2 texts, 1 tune)
  3. Hugill, pp. 182-191, "Rolling Home" (4 texts- 3 English, 1 German; 3 tunes) [AbEd, pp. 146-149]
  4. Shay-SeaSongs, pp. 141-143, "(Rolling Home)" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Fahey-Eureka, pp. 54-55, "Rolling Home" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. Meredith/Covell/Brown, p. 95, "Rolling Home" (1 text, 1 tune)
  7. Smith/Hatt, p. 40, "Rolling Home to Merry England" (1 text)
  8. Darling-NAS, pp. 320-321, "Rolling Home" (1 text)
  9. Silber-FSWB, p. 96, "Rolling Home" (1 text)
  11. Roud #4766
  12. BI, Doe155


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1906
Found in: US(MA,NE) Australia Canada(Mar,Newf)