The Irish Rover

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"The Irish Rover"
The Irish Rover.jpg
Single by The Pogues and The Dubliners
B-side"The Rare Old Mountain Dew"
ReleasedMarch 1987
GenreCeltic rock
The Pogues singles chronology
"The Irish Rover"
"Fairytale of New York"

"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 over time.

The song describes a gigantic ship with "twenty-seven masts", a colourful crew and varied types of cargo in enormous amounts. The verses grow successively more extravagant about the wonders of the great ship. The seven-year voyage comes to a disastrous end when the ship sinks. The narrator becomes the only survivor, "the last of the Irish Rover", leaving no one else alive to contradict the tale.


According to the 1966 publication Walton's New Treasury of Irish Songs and Ballads 2, the song is attributed to songwriter/arranger J. M. Crofts.[1]


The song details a cargo of the fictional ship which betrays the story to be heavily embellished. The lyrics vary from rendition to rendition, but typically note that the cargo of the Irish Rover included -

  • Bricks (undefined quantity)
  • Bales of old billy goats' tails (1 million)
  • Buckets of stones (2 million)
  • Blind horses' hides (3 million)
  • Packets of bones (4 million)
  • Hogs (5 million)
  • Dogs (6 million)
  • Whores (6 million)[2]
  • Barrels of porter (7 million)
  • Bags of the best Sligo rags (8 million)


The song does not explicitly mention how many sailors were on board when they set sail, but the following characters are mentioned along with a notable attribute:

  • Mickey Coote - played the flute
  • Barney McGee - from the banks of the Lee
  • Hogan - from County Tyrone
  • Johnny McGurk - has a strong aversion to work
  • Malone - a man from Westmeath
  • Slugger O'Toole - was perpetually drunk
  • Bill Tracey - a fighter from Dover
  • Mick McCann - from the banks of the Bann, was the skipper
  • The Captain's dog
  • The singer - the last sailor living of the Irish Rover


(The Pogues & The Dubliners single)

Chart (1987) Peak
Ireland (IRMA)[3] 1
UK Singles (OCC)[4] 8
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[5] 25

Cultural impact[edit]


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


  1. ^ James Prescott (3 February 2014). "James Prescott - Folk Song Index In - Je". Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Chart Track: Week 00, 1967". Irish Singles Chart.
  4. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  5. ^ " – The Dubliners Man – Maids When You're Young". Top 40 Singles.
  6. ^ "Dominic Behan - The Irish Rover (Vinyl, LP, Album)". Retrieved 4 June 2015.

External links[edit]