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The Irish Rover

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"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-three masts" (versions by The Dubliners and The Pogues claim twenty-seven), 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 culminates in a disastrous end, after the ship suffers a measles outbreak, killing all but the narrator and the captain's dog. The ship then strikes a rock, turning "nine times around" and sinking. The captain's dog drowns in the incident, and the narrator is the only survivor, "the last of the Irish Rover", leaving no one else alive to contradict the tale.


Walton's New Treasury of Irish Songs and Ballads 2 (1966) attributes the song to songwriter/arranger J. M. Crofts.[1]

A manuscript version of the song dated in 1937 and 1938 is currently in the Irish National Folklore Collection in Dublin, attributed to Lisgorman Townland (a place, not a person) of Cloonlogher, County Leitrim.[2] The next source for Roud 7379 in the Vaughan Williams Library catalogue is the singer Denis Murray from County Cork, collected by Fred Hamer, possibly 1946. On the time scale of traditional folk songs this is quite recent.

A Canadian source, Oliver John Abbott (1872–1962), was born in England and worked in farms in an Irish community in the Ottawa Valley.[3][4] He recorded this song in 1961 but claimed to have learned it the 1880s and 1890s. Another source in Maine was recorded in 1941. This suggests that the song is connected to an Irish expatriate community in Canada or the United States.


(The Pogues & The Dubliners single)

Chart (1987) Peak
Ireland (IRMA)[5] 1
UK Singles (OCC)[6] 8
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[7] 25

Cultural impact[edit]


"The Irish Rover" has been recorded many times including:


  1. ^ James Prescott (3 February 2014). "James Prescott - Folk Song Index In - Je". Telusplanet.net. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  2. ^ Vaughan Williams, Ralph. "Roud 4379". EDFSS Library. EDFSS. Retrieved 9 October 2022.
  3. ^ Abbott, Oliver John. "O J Abbott". Canadian Encyclopedia. Historical Canada. Retrieved 9 October 2022.
  4. ^ Abbott, O.J. "Irish and British Songs From the Ottawa Valley". Smithsonian/ Folkways. Smithsonian. Retrieved 9 October 2022.
  5. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – The Irish Rover". Irish Singles Chart.
  6. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  7. ^ "The Pogues & the Dubliners – The Irish Rover". Top 40 Singles.
  8. ^ Napier, Keith. "Mr". Scottish Country Dance Database. SCDD. Retrieved 30 October 2022.
  9. ^ The First of the Irish Rovers
  10. ^ Irish Rover (28 September 2019). "Bounding Main". Bounding Main. Retrieved 29 February 2024.
  11. ^ Sheridan Rúitín Discography