“The Isle de France”


"Oh, the sun went down, and the moon advanced When the convict came to the Isle de France." The Irish convict was on his way home when a storm cast him ashore on the Isle. A letter from the queen sets the convict free

Long description

A convict is shipwrecked on the Isle of France; he had been sentenced to seven years' transportation (for unruly behavior), and was on his way home when his ship, the "Shamrock Green," foundered. Cast up on the island, he is offered sustenance and comfort by the Coast Guard, who sends a sympathetic letter to the Queen. The convict is pardoned; he blesses the Coast Guard and wishes success to the Isle of France


The Isle de France mentioned here is not the Parisian region of France (the old crownlands of the French king), but (in the Australian version; the British versions may refer to one of the Channel Islands) the island of Mauritius.

The island was originally colonized by the Dutch (from 1638; they discovered it in 1507), then taken over by the French in 1721. The British occupied it in 1810, and renamed it Mauritius at about the same time. It became an independent member of the Commonwealth in 1968.

Mauritius was not a true prison colony, but it was uninhabited when the Dutch occupied it. The French brought in slaves from Africa to grow sugar. The British abolished slavery in 1834, but this left them with a need for workers, whom they imported primarily from India. Thus Mauritius was sort of a guarded colony even though it was not a destination for prisoners.

Manifold believes the Queen of the song to be Victoria, making the "Isle de France" of the song an anacronism. But it is at least possible that a non-ruling queen could have expedited the convict's appeal.

Alternately, it occurs to me that Ile-de-France has been the name of a number of French ships. Perhaps the name is a corruption of a version in which the sailor was rescued by a ship called Ile-de-France? - RBW

Perhaps it's not surprising, given our field of study, that we lack the keyword "kindness," but that is without question the subject of this ballad. - PJS


  • NLScotland, L.C.1270(009), "The Isle of France," unknown, n.d.


  1. MacSeegTrav 93, "The Isle of France" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Manifold-PASB, pp. 24-25, "The Isle de France" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Roud #1575
  4. BI, PASB024


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1962 (Manifold; broadside printed probably c. 1890)
Found in: Australia Britain(England,Scotland)