This Monday, how about a classic song about the wild and unpredictable voyage of one of the largest sail freighters the world has ever seen? It's completely fiction, of course, and written to be absolutely ridiculous, but a classic nonetheless. To give you an idea of how ridiculous, here's an illustration of the ship as described in the song's first verse, which I wasted a full 5 minutes on.
Having grown up on Irish folk music (specifically the Clancy Brothers), I'd known this song for decades before I really put together how absolutely absurd the lyrics are: 23 masts, a crew of 7, and millions of units of all sorts of just plain preposterous cargo make it a great satire of many other shipwreck songs. Carrying a load of bricks for the grand city hall in New York, but having absolutely no bricks listed in the cargo verse, and a trans-atlantic voyage of seven years in an era when it should be around 3-4 weeks is a great touch of exaggeration. Deadpan delivery tops off the whole performance.
Most convenient for us at HRMM, though, is that this can arguably be a legendary song about one of the most unique Brick Schooners ever built and sailed. While legendarily it never made it to New York or the Hudson before sinking, I think we'll claim it all the same.
Enjoy this rendition by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, and of course the song has been sung by many other legends of the Irish Folk scene: The Dubliners, The Pogues, The (aptly named) Irish Rovers, and many others. Mario Rincon, Mike Pagnani, and Andre Ernst all also play this tune on Solaris from time to time, if you come out on one of their concert cruises.
For good measure in filling out the post, here's The Irish Rovers playing "The Irish Rover."
In the Year of our Lord Eighteen Hundred and Six
We set sail from the Cobh quay of Cork
We were sailing away with a cargo of bricks
For the grand City Hall in New York
We'd an elegant craft, she was rigged 'fore and aft
And lord how the trade winds drove her
She had twenty-three masts, and she stood several blasts
And they called her the Irish Rover
There was Barney McGee from the banks of the Lee
There was Hogan from County Tyrone
There was Johnny McGurk who was scared stiff of work
And a man from Westmeath called Malone
There was Slugger O'Toole who was drunk as a rule
And fighting Ben Tracy from Dover
And your man Mick McCann, from the banks of the Bann
Was the skipper on the Irish Rover
We had one million bags of the best Sligo rags
We had two million barrels of bone
We had three million bales of old nanny goats' tails
We had four million barrels of stone
We had five million hogs and six million dogs
And seven million barrels of porter
We had eight million sides of old blind horse's hides
In the hold of the Irish Rover
We had sailed seven years when the measles broke out
And our ship lost her way in the fog
And the whole of the crew was reduced down to two
'Twas m'self and the captain's old dog
Then the ship struck a rock; oh Lord, what a shock
We nearly tumbled over
Turned nine times around and the poor old dog was drowned
Now I'm the last of the Irish Rover
Steven Woods is the Solaris and Education coordinator at HRMM. He earned his Master's degree in Resilient and Sustainable Communities at Prescott College, and wrote his thesis on the revival of Sail Freight for supplying the New York Metro Area's food needs. Steven has worked in Museums for over 20 years.
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