This page was created by Maren Connell.  The last update was by Emily Bengtson.

Star of the Sea : A Postcolonial/Postmodern Voyage into the Irish Famine


Carrickfergus is an interesting song in that it is really two songs in one.  The English version is the most well known today, and goes along the same vein as many of the other songs mentioned - wishing to be back in Ireland, as seen here:

I wish I was in Carrickfergus
Only for nights in Ballygran
I would swim over the deepest ocean
The deepest ocean, my love to find

(And yes, there is similarity in the English version to an English folk song, “The Water is Wide,” in the second stanza that is not at all in the original Irish)

However, it started out as a completely different song called “Do Bhí Bean Uasal” Or “There Was a Noblewoman.”  There’s no really good English translation of the lyrics, but it’s essentially about a man loving a woman from County Clare, wanting to marry her on St. Michael’s day, and then leaving her because she has two daughters. And then he’s injured and drunk and roving - typical love song fare.

But here is the first verse of the Irish version:

Do bhí bean uasal seal dá lua liom,
's chuir sí suas díom fóraíl ghéar;
Do ghabhas lastuas di sna bailte móra
Ach go dtug sí svae  léi os comhair an tsaoil.

And for comparison's sake, here is the first verse of the English version translated to Irish:

Is mian liom go raibh mé i Carrickfergus
Ach amháin le haghaidh oiche i Ballygran
Ba mhaith liom ag snamh os cionn na farraige is doimhne
An farraige is doimhne le mo ghrá a aimsiú​

This type of song is sometimes called macaronic, meaning that it either is different in different languages, or alternates between two languages throughout the lyrics. 

“The Land of the Gael” has some macaronic elements in that it has a few Irish place names in it.  In Star of the Sea, a central character, Pius Mulvey, gets his start as a singer/performer (which eventually leads him to writing a ballad of his own) by singing a macaronic song.

Though "Carrickfergus" and “Do Bhí Bean Uasal” are sung to the same tune, they are completely different.  What started out as a song about the loss of love in Irish became an English song about longing for Ireland.  Furthermore, Carrickfergus is located in the northeastern part of the Island of Ireland, which is now part of Northern Ireland.  Not only does the narrator of this song lose Ireland because of emigrating, but her hometown is still under British rule and does not have independence yet, so the loss is doubled.

Works Cited
"Do Bhí Bean Uasal." Wolf Default RSS. Web. 05 Apr. 2016.

Google Translate provided the Irish translation of the English lyrics.
Researcher/Writer: Michaila Gerlach
Technical Writers: Emily Bengtson and Maren Connell

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