“Thousands Are Sailing to America”


"Your sons and brave daughters are now going away, And thousands are sailing to America." The singer addresses those staying in Ireland and describes sad partings. You raise children, try to support them, "and when they are reared sure they will go away"


Morton-Maguire: "This is a song from the 1880s, by which time the enforced emigration of famine times had become a ritual, almost part of growing up." - BS

We should be a little careful in how we interpret these words. There were famines in Ireland before the potato blights, and all resulted in emigration, and the rate of emigration increased with the great famines of the 1840s.

But the potato blight, which resulted in the death or emigration of almost half the population, largely solved the problem of actual starvation; with the population down to a reasonable level, there were no more Mathusian catastrophes. The real problem was that the landlords owned the land, meaning that the tenants were still working for almost no reward. As another emigration song says, "'Twas not for the want of employment at home That causes the sons of old Ireland to roam. But those tyrannizing landlords, they would not let us stay...." And so the emigrant ships were filled, and stayed full for many years even after Ireland became independent.... - RBW


  • John Maguire, "Thousands Are Sailing to Amerikay" (on IRJMaguire01)


  1. Morton-Maguire 15, pp. 37-38,107,162-163, "Thousands Are Sailing to America" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Roud #2904
  3. BI, MoMa015


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1973 (Morton-Maguire)
Found in: Ireland