The Parting Glass

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"The Parting Glass" is a traditional song, often sung at the end of a gathering of friends. It was purportedly the most popular parting song sung in Scotland before Robert Burns wrote "Auld Lang Syne".[1] The song is also popular in Ireland and amongst Irish communities.



The earliest known printed version was as a broadside in the 1770s and it first appeared in book form in "Scots Songs" by Herd.[1] An early version is sometimes attributed to Sir Alex Boswell. The text is doubtless older than its 1770 appearance in broadside, as it was recorded in the Skene Manuscript, a collection of Scottish airs written at various dates between 1615 and 1635.[2] It was known at least as early as 1605, when a portion of the first stanza was written in a farewell letter, as a poem now known as "Armstrong's Goodnight", by one of the Border Reivers executed that year for the murder in 1600 of Sir John Carmichael, Warden of the Scottish West March.[3]


The earliest known appearance of the tune today associated with this text is as a fiddle tune called "The Peacock", included in James Aird's A Selection of Scots, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 2 (1782).[4]

Patrick Weston Joyce, in his Old Irish Folk Music and Songs (1909), gives the tune with a different text under the name "Sweet Cootehill Town," noting, "The air seems to have been used indeed as a general farewell tune, so that—from the words of another song of the same class—it is often called 'Good night and joy be with you all.'"[5] The celebrated Irish folk song collector Colm O Lochlainn has taken note of this identity of melodies between "The Parting Glass" and "Sweet Cootehill Town".[6] "Sweet Cootehill Town" is another traditional farewell song, this time involving a man leaving Ireland to go to America.

The tune appeared, with sacred lyrics, in 19th century American tunebooks. "Shouting Hymn" in Jeremiah Ingalls's Christian Harmony (1805) is a related tune.[7] The tune achieved wider currency among shape note singers with its publication, associated with a text first known in the 1814 Collection of Hymns and Spiritual Songs, "Come Now Ye Lovely Social Band", in William Walker's Southern Harmony (1835), and in The Sacred Harp (1844).[8] This form of the song is still widely sung by Sacred Harp singers under the title "Clamanda".

Modern adaptations[edit]

The song Restless Farewell written by Bob Dylan and featured on The Times They Are a-Changin' from 1964 is heavily based on The Parting Glass.

In 1998, the traditional words were set to a new, slightly different melody by Irish composer Shaun Davey. In 2002, he orchestrated this version for orchestra, choir, pipes, fiddle, and percussion to commemorate the opening of the Helix Concert Hall, Dublin, Ireland.


Year Artist Release Notes and/or Peak Chart Position
1959 The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem Come Fill Your Glass with Us
1968 The Dubliners Drinkin' and Courtin'
1979 Ronnie Drew (of The Dubliners) Together Again
1982 Ryan's Fancy Irish Love Songs
1985 The Pogues "The Parting Glass" (single); 2004 re-release of Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash
1994 John McDermott Old Friends a cappella
1994 Father, Son and Friends "Rebels, Rogues & Rascals"
1996 Poxy Boggards Bawdy Parts - Original and Traditional Songs of Drinking and Revelry
1998 Steeleye Span Horkstow Grange
1998 Liam O'Maonlai and The Voice Squad Recording with an original melody by Shaun Davey for the closing titles of the movie Waking Ned Devine
2002 Sinéad O'Connor Sean-Nós Nua
2003 The Tossers Purgatory Hidden track
2003 Voice Male Approved Belgian all-male a cappella group
2004 The Wailin' Jennys 40 Days
2007 Mark Seymour Titanic
2008 The Holy Sea A Beginner's Guide to the Sea
2008 The High Kings The High Kings
2008 Cara Dillon Hill of Thieves
2009 The Spooky Men's Chorale Deep
2010 Luke Macfarlane Brothers & Sisters Season 4 Episode 23
2010 Loreena McKennitt The Wind That Shakes the Barley
2011 Hannah Peel The Broken Wave
2011 Celtic Woman Celtic Woman: Believe
2011 Ed Sheeran + Hidden track
2011 The Felice Brothers God Bless You Amigo
2011 Bruce Guthro Celtic Crossing
2012 Emily Kinney and Lauren Cohan The Walking Dead: AMC Original Soundtrack, Vol. 1 Recorded for The Walking Dead.[9]
2013 UCD Choral Scholars The Parting Glass (EP)
2013 Sarah Greene (uncredited) Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag[10] Closing cinematic of the game's main story.
2013 Face Vocal Band How Was the Show Last Night
2013 Celtic Woman Celtic Woman: Emerald- Musical Gems
2014 Gregory Page Gregory Page - One way journey home
2014 Peter Hollens Self-Titled
2014 Glen Hansard and guests Céilúradh at Royal Albert Hall
2015 Damien Leith Songs From Ireland No.11 album in Australia
2015 Scythian Old Tin Can


  1. ^ a b "The Parting Glass". Retrieved 21 March 2013. 
  2. ^ George Grove and John Alexander Fuller-Maitland. (1908.) Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, The Macmillan Company, p. 479.
  3. ^ George MacDonald Fraser. (1995.) Steel Bonnets: The Story of the Anglo-Scottish Border Reivers, Harper Collins, London, pp. 140–143.
  4. ^ Some notes on the history of "The Parting Glass". Aird 1782 at IMSLP.
  5. ^ Joyce 1909, pp. 191f.
  6. ^ O Lochlainn, Colm. Irish Street Ballads, Pan, 1978, p. 225
  7. ^ "Shouting Hymn" in Ingalls's Christian Harmony
  8. ^ Prof. Warren Steel's page; "Clamanda" in The Sacred Harp (1991 revision).
  9. ^ "'The Walking Dead' Sisters Get Mournful on 'The Parting Glass' – Premiere". Rolling Stone. 13 October 2012. Retrieved 6 December 2012. 
  10. ^ "'Assassin's Creed 4 Black FlagEnding Song 'Parting Glass' - AC4 Ending Song/Music - YouTube". Ubisoft. 11 December 2013. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 

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