The Irish Rover

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"The Irish Rover"
Single by The Pogues and The Dubliners
from the album If I Should Fall From Grace With God
Released March 1987
Format 7" and 12" Vinyl
Genre Celtic rock
Length 3:39
Writer(s) Traditional
The Pogues chronology
"Haunted"
(1986)
"The Irish Rover"
(1987)
"Fairytale of New York"
(1987)

"The Irish Rover" is an Irish folk song about a magnificent, though improbable, sailing ship that reaches an unfortunate end. It has been recorded by numerous artists, some of whom have made changes to the lyrics.

The origins of the song are uncertain but it is usually attributed to a little-known songwriter/arranger named J.M. Crofts. Crofts is listed as the author in the 1966 publication, Walton's New Treasury of Irish Songs and Ballads 2.[1]

Some of the lyrics have become corrupted over time. For example, the opening line of one of the verses is often presented as: "We had sailed seven years when the measles broke out". Measles is actually a corruption of mizzens, which refers to the third and smallest mast on a ship. Both measles and mizzens are now commonly used in versions by different performers.

A recording of the "Irish Rover" by The Dubliners and The Pogues reached number 8 in the UK Singles Chart and number 1 in the Irish Singles Chart and number 45 in the Euro Chart in 1987.

The singer describes a gigantic ship with a colorful crew and varied types of cargo in enormous amounts. Each successive verse is ever more malarkey about the wonders of the great ship. The seven-year voyage comes to a disastrous end after losing its way in the fog, striking a rock, and spinning nine times around before sinking with most of the crew (and the captain's old dog) - everyone except the singer, who in the last line of the song is revealed to be the lone survivor of The Irish Rover's ill-fated final voyage, so there is no one alive to contradict the tale.

The Pogues & The Dubliners[edit]

Chart (1987) Peak
position
Ireland (IRMA)[2] 1
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[3] 8
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[4] 25

Cultural impact[edit]

  • The Irish Rover is one of the most popular Scottish country dances and is set to the music of the song.
  • The Irish Rovers, created in 1963, were named after the traditional song "The Irish Rover" by their mother in Ballymena, N. Ireland. They first recorded the song on their 1966 debut album, The First of the Irish Rovers.
  • Slugger O'Toole - a character referred to in The Irish Rover has been adopted as the name of a major political website in Northern Ireland.
  • In issue 26 of DC/Vertigo series Preacher when Cassidy describes his drinking buddies in New York City, the names are all taken from the Irish Rover.

Recordings[edit]

"The Irish Rover" has been recorded many times by a variety of artists. Versions are listed below by notable artists in descending chronological order.

References[edit]

External links[edit]