Kilkelly, Ireland

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I learned this amazing song many years ago on a recording by Micky Moloney and Robbie O'Connell.The Lyrics are based on a series of family letters sent to the U. S. from Killkelly in County Mayo. Two of my own great- grandparents and one grandmother emigrated to New York from Ireland in the late 1800's. They came from Limerick and Sligo. I have no doubt that the lyrics of this song reflect some of the emotions and circumstances that they experienced. Of course these feelings of separation, love, and longing were and are shared by immigrants from all places all around the world. 
I have done many family history projects with students, helping them collect stories and conduct interviews. This song has consistently been a favorite with fourth and fifth graders. Initially I was surprised by their depth of understanding. I should know better by now that kids are full of wonderful insights and surprises.


Words and music copyright Peter Jones, 1983 

Kilkelly Ireland1860 
My dear and loving son John 
Your good friend the schoolmaster Pat 
Mac Namara's 
So good as to write these words down 
Your brothers have all gone to find work in 
The house is so empty and sad 
The crop of potatoes is sorely infected with 
A third to a half of them bad 
Your sister Brigid and Patrick O' Donnell are 
going to be married in June 
Your mother says not to work on the railroad 
And be sure to come on home soon. 

Kilkelly Ireland 1870 
My dear and loving son John 
Hello to your Mrs. and to your four children 
May they grow healthy and strong 
Michael has got in a wee bit of trouble 
I suppose that he never will learn 
Because of the dampness there's no turf to 
speak of 
And now there is nothing to burn 
Brigid is happy you named a child for her 
Although she's got six of her own 
You say you found work but you don't say 
what kind 
Or when you'll be coming home 

Killy Ireland 1880 
Dear Michael and John my sons 
I'm sorry to give you the sad news 
But your dear old mother passed on 
We buried her down at the church in 
Your brothers and Brigid were there 
You don't have to worry she died very 
Remember her in your prayers 
And it's so good to hear that Michael's 
With money he's sure to buy land 
For the crop has been poor and the people 
are selling 
At any price that they can 

Kilkelly Ireland 1890 
My dear and loving son John 
I suppose that I must be close on 80 
It's 30 years since you've gone 
Because of all of the money you sent me 
I'm still living out on my own 
Michael has built himself a fine house 
And Brigid's daughters have grown. 
Thank you for sending your family's picture 
They're lovely young women and men 
You say that you might even come for a visit 
What joy to see you again 

Kilkelly Ireland 1892 
My dear brother John 
I'm sorry I didn't write sooner to tell you 
But Father passed on. He was living with Brigid 
she says he was cheerful 
And healthy right down to the end 
Ah you should've seen him playin' with the 
Of Pat MacNamara your friend 
We buried him alongside of Mother 
Down at the Kilkelly church yard 
He was a strong and a feisty old man 
Considering his life was so hard 
And it's funny the way he kept talkin'about 
He called for you at the end 
Why don't you think about coming to visit. 
We'd all love to see you again