Fiddler's Green

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Fiddler's Green is an after-life where there is perpetual mirth, a fiddle that never stops playing, and dancers who never tire. In 19th-century English maritime folklore, it was a kind of after-life for sailors who had served at least fifty years at sea.[1][2][3]

In literature[edit]

Not all early mentions of Fiddler's Green are positive. For example, Edward Rose's The Sea-Devil, or, Son of a Bellows-Mender (1811) has the following dialogue:[4]

"a seaman never goes to hell—Fiddler's green is the tar's mooring-ground." "And where is Fiddler's green?" [...] "'tis the half-way house. A rare place sure enough, where Old Nick is employed to mix hot grog for sailors."

and a description published in a number of magazines around 1825:[5]

We are informed that there is in the other world, a place prepared for maids and bachelors called Fiddler's Green, where they are condemned, for the lack of good fellowship in this world, to dance together to all eternity.

More positively, Fiddler's Green is mentioned in Frederick Marryat's novel Snarleyyow; or, The Dog Fiend (1837), in a sailors' song with the chorus:[6]

At Fidler's Green, where seamen true,
    When here they've done their duty,
The bowl of grog shall still renew,
    And pledge to love and beauty.

Herman Melville describes a Fiddler's Green as a sailors' term for the place on land "providentially set apart for dance-houses, doxies, and tapsters" in his posthumous novella Billy Budd, Sailor.

Fiddler's Green is the title of a 1950 novel by Ernest K. Gann, about a fugitive criminal who works as a seaman after stowing away.[7]

The author Richard McKenna wrote a story, first published in 1967, titled "Fiddler's Green,” in which he considers the power of the mind to create a reality of its own choosing, especially when a number of people consent to it. The main characters in this story are also sailors, and have known of the legend of Fiddler's Green for many years.[8]

In Patrick O'Brian's novel Post Captain (1972), the character Jack Aubrey describes several seamen living together on land by saying, "We'll lay in beer and skittles – it will be Fiddler's Green!".

Fiddler's Green is an extrasolar colony mentioned in Robert A. Heinlein's novels Friday (1982) and The Cat Who Walks Through Walls (1985).

In Neil Gaiman's The Sandman comic book series, Fiddler's Green is a place located inside of the Dreaming, a place that sailors have dreamed of for centuries. Fiddler's Green is also personified as a character as well as a location in the fictional world, the former largely based upon casual associations of G. K. Chesterton. In the 2022 TV adaption of the books, the personification is played by Stephen Fry. From November 12 to 14, 2004, a comic book convention promoted as "Fiddler's Green, A Sandman Convention" was held at the Millennium Hotel in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Author Neil Gaiman and several Sandman series artists, and others involved in the series' publication, participated in the convention, with profits benefiting the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

In music[edit]

  • A song called "Fiddler's Green", or more often "Fo'c'sle Song", was written by John Conolly in 1966,[9] a Lincolnshire songwriter. It has been recorded by Tim Hart and Maddy Prior for their album Folk Songs of Olde England Vol. 2 (1968), by The Dubliners for their album Plain and Simple (1973), by The Yetties for their album All at Sea (1973), and by The Irish Rovers for their album Upon a Shamrock Shore: Songs of Ireland & the Irish (2000).[10] The American sailor band Schooner Fare credits the song for bringing together their band. The song is sung worldwide in nautical and Irish traditional circles, and is often mistakenly thought to be a traditional song.[11]
  • "Fiddler's Green" is a song from the album Road Apples by Canadian rock group The Tragically Hip, written for lead singer Gord Downie's young nephew Charles Gillespie, who died before the album was released.[12] The track was covered by Welsh band Stereophonics on their 1999 Deluxe album Performance and Cocktails
  • "Fiddler's Green" is a song from Marley's Ghost's album Four Spacious Guys (1996).
  • Fiddler's Green is the title track and name of Tim O'Brien's Grammy Award-winning 2005 album.
  • Fiddler's Green is a German folk-rock band, formed in 1990.
  • "Fiddler on the Green" is a song by German-American power metal supergroup Demons & Wizards, from their self-titled album released in 1999.
  • Fiddler's Green is mentioned in the Archie Fisher song "The Final Trawl" from the album Windward Away, about fishermen whose livelihoods are passing away.
  • Fiddler's Green is also mentioned in the extended version of the song "Hoist the Colors" from the Pirates of the Caribbean films.
  • Friends of Fiddler's Green is a folk music group form Canada, founded in 1971.
  • Fiddler's Green is an outdoor amphitheatre in Greenwood Village, Colorado.
  • "Fiddler's Green" was recorded by the American quintet Bounding Main and released on their 2005 album Maiden Voyage.[13]

In art[edit]

  • Statue by Ray Lonsdale, installed in 2017 on Fish Quay in North Shields, England.[14]

In film[edit]

In the United States military[edit]

The Cavalrymen's Poem, also entitled "Fiddlers' Green" was published in the US Army's Cavalry Journal in 1923 and became associated with the 1st Cavalry Division.[15]

Halfway down the trail to Hell in a shady meadow green,

are the Souls of all dead troopers camped near a good old-time canteen,
and this eternal resting place is known as Fiddlers' Green.

Marching past, straight through to Hell, the Infantry are seen,
accompanied by the Engineers, Artillery and Marine,
for none but the shades of Cavalrymen dismount at Fiddlers' Green.

Though some go curving down the trail to seek a warmer scene,
no trooper ever gets to Hell ere he's emptied his canteen
and so rides back to drink again with friends at Fiddlers' Green.
And so when man and horse go down beneath a saber keen,
or in a roaring charge fierce melee you stop a bullet clean,
and the hostiles come to get your scalp,
just empty your canteen and put your pistol to your head

and go to Fiddlers' Green.

The name has had other military uses. Many places associated with the US military have been named Fiddler's Green:[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Eyers, Jonathan (March 1, 2012). Don't Shoot the Albatross!: Nautical Myths and Superstitions. London: A&C Black. ISBN 978-1-4081-3131-2..
  2. ^ "The Sailor's magazine, and naval journal – American Seamen's Friend Society". Life on the Ocean. February 1898. p. 168. Retrieved October 14, 2011.
  3. ^ Hotten, John Camden (1859). A Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant, and Vulgar Words. ISBN 978-1164343998.
  4. ^ Rose, Edward (1811). The Sea-Devil, or, Son of a Bellows-Mender. Plymouth-Dock: J. Roach. pp. 24–25.
  5. ^ "Bachelor's elysium". New York Mirror. Vol. 3, no. 2. August 6, 1825. p. 10.
  6. ^ Marryat, Frederick (1837). "Chapter IX". Snarleyyow; or, The Dog Fiend. Philadelphia: E. L. Carey and A. Hart. hdl:2027/hvd.hweec5.
  7. ^ Gann, Ernest K. (1950). Fiddler's Green. William Sloane Association.
  8. ^ McKenna, Richard (1976). Casey Agonistes and Other Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories. London: Pan Books. ISBN 978-0330248259.
  9. ^ When a Loose Cannon Flogs a Dead Horse There's the Devil to Pay: Seafaring Words in Everyday Speech by Olivia A. Isil
  10. ^ "The Irish Rovers – Upon A Shamrock Shore Songs Of Ireland And The Irish". Discogs. Archived from the original on February 23, 2020. Retrieved February 23, 2020.
  11. ^ Blood, Peter; Patterson, Annie, eds. (1988). Rise Up Singing. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania: Sing Out!. p. 201. ISBN 1-881322-12-2. O Fiddler's Green is a place I've heard tell, where fishermen go if they don't go to hell
  12. ^ Rudnick, Natasha (August 19, 2016). "The Tragically Hip: 10 Essential Songs - "Fiddler's Green" (1991)". Rolling Stone.
  13. ^ Fiddlers' Green (September 28, 2019). "Bounding Main". Bounding Main. Retrieved February 29, 2024.
  14. ^ David Morton (April 21, 2021). "The North Shields memorial to lost fishermen - how the striking statue was created". Chronicle Live. Reach plc. Retrieved September 22, 2022.
  15. ^ "Fiddler's Green and other Cavalry Songs by JHS". Cavalry Journal. April 1923.
  16. ^ Axelrod, Alan (March 5, 2013), Weird War: Curious Military Trivia, Union Square, p. 49, ISBN 978-1-4351-4485-9
  17. ^ Curry, Judi (July 29, 2019). "Restaurant Review: Fiddler's Green on Shelter Island in Point Loma". OB Rag. Retrieved July 13, 2020.

Further reading[edit]