“When First Into this Country”


The stranger arrives and finds no one cares about him. He is accused of crimes, but the only crime he admits is involvement with three girls. Forced into a harsh apprenticeship, he at last earns his freedom and marries his love


This shares a first line or two with "When First To This Country," but the similarity ends by the end of the second stanza. The first few verses probably did transfer (I suspect from this song to that, since "When First To This Country" barely survived in tradition), but the two songs are clearly separate.

To add to the confusion, the song seems to exist in two forms. Huntington's gives full details of the youth's troubles. Ord's and Stokoe's, both known by the title "The American Stranger," gloss over it, and end with the singer emigrating but saying something like the lovers are "In a plentiful country, (they are/and) God bless the King." - RBW

Chris Willett's version on Voice11 takes lines found on broadside Harding B 11(48), among others, ("But to prove myself loyal, You shall come along with me, And I'll take you to America, My darling for to be.") and turns them into a chorus ("Just to prove myself royal, if you're go along with me, I will take you to America my own darling to see"); it also has a verse from Johnson Ballads 458, among others, ("The moon shall be in darkness, And the stars shall give no light If ever I prove false to my hearts delight," "In the middle of the ocean There shall grow a myrtle [or plum, or willow] tree") that float in other songs. - BS

Cross references

  • cf. "When First To This Country (I)" ("When First Unto This Country" lyrics) and references there


  • Bodleian, 2806 c.17(4) View 2 of 2, "American Strander [sic]" ("I am a stranger in this country"), G. Thompson (Liverpool), 1789-1820; also 2806 c.17(3) View 2 of 2,, "America [sic] Stranger"; Harding B 11(48), Firth b.25(273), Harding B 15(3a), Harding B 25(46), Harding B 20(237), Harding B 11(3053A), Harding B 11(3056), 2806 b.11(29), Harding B 11(49), Harding B 16(6a), Harding B 28(159), "American Stranger[!]"; Harding B 25(1845) [illegible lines], "The Stranger"; 2806 b.11(215), "Sporting Youth" ("I'm a stranger in this country from Ireland I came")
  • Murray, Mu23-y2:013, "The Sporting Youth," Poet's Box (Glasgow), 1856
  • NLScotland, L.C.Fol.178.A.2(019), "The American Stranger," McIntosh (Glasgow), 1849


  • Chris Willett, "The American Stranger" (on Voice11)


  1. Huntington-Whalemen, pp. 195-197, "When First Into this Country" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Ord, pp. 127-128, "The American Stranger" (1 text, a somewhat confused version in which the singer seems to shift from having one girl to three back to one)
  3. Stokoe/Reay, pp. 170-171, "The American Stranger" (1 text, 1 tune, similar to but shorter than Ord's text)
  4. DT, WHNFRST2*
  5. Roud #1081
  6. BI, SWMS195


Alternate titles: “The Irish Stranger”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1847 (Journal of William Histed of the Cortes)
Found in: Britain(England(Lond)) US