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
Format7" and 12" Vinyl
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 twenty-seven masted ship with 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 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 aboard – 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 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 Pogues & The Dubliners single)

Chart (1987) Peak
Ireland (IRMA)[3] 1
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[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 descending chronological order.


  1. ^ James Prescott (2014-02-03). "James Prescott - Folk Song Index In - Je". Retrieved 2015-06-04.
  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 2015-06-04.

External links[edit]