Galway Bay

Galway Bay (1) by A. Colahan

From "A Song-book of Folk and Pop Music" by Mario Papa & Giuliano Iantorno,

Zanichelli Editore, 1977


If you ever go across the sea to Ireland,

Then maybe at the closing of your day,

You will sit and watch the moon rise over Claddagh,

And see the sun go down on Galway Bay.


Just to hear again the ripple of the trout stream,

The women in the meadows making hay,

And to sit beside a turf fire in the cabin,

And watch the bare-foot Gossoons (2) at their play.


For the breezes blowing o'er the seas from Ireland,

Are perfumed by the heather as they blow,

And the women in the uplands digging praties (3),

Speak a language that the strangers do not know.


For the strangers came and tried to teach us their way,

They scorned us just for being what we are,

But they might as well go chasing after moon-beams,

Or light a penny candle from a star.


And if there is going to be a life here after,

And somehow I am sure there's going to be,

I will ask my God to let me make my heaven,

In that dear land across the Irish sea.


(1) Galway Bay: it is situated on the west side of Ireland, and faces the Atlantic Ocean. (2) Gossoons: children. (3) Praties: Irish dialect for “potatoes”.


Irish emigration

During the early 1800s, Ireland's population grew rapidly, but its economy, which relied entirely on agriculture, declined. Many people cultivated land but had to pay high rents to the landlords while others lived on small farms that produced little income. Most of the Irish people had not a great choice for their food and depended mainly on potatoes. But from 1845 to 1847 Ireland's potato crop failed because of a plant disease, and about 750.00 persons died of starvation or disease, while hundreds of thousands more left the country and went to the United States which in those times, represented the Promised Land for the poor. So a great movement of emigration began and it went on up to 1921 when Ireland gained its independence, the Germans and the Japanese built new industries, and the Irish improved farming conditions. In America the immigrants were the people at the bottom of the social ladder: those millions, who had arrived without any money and often illiterate on the crowded immigrant ships, worked in the worst-paid jobs and lived in the worst places. The Irish were the first large group of non-protestant immigrants, and they were desperately poor. In the cities where they went by the thousands, they were always looked upon with suspicion and hostility. But they worked hard and gave their contribution to the growth of their new country.