Tyne Folk


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Rolling Home by Charles Mackay

Call all hands to man the capstan
See the cables run down clear
Heave away and with a will, boys
For Old England we will steer
And we’ll sing in joyful chorus
In the watches of the night
And we’ll sight the shores of England
When the grey dawn brings the light

Rolling Home, Rolling Home
Rolling Home Across the Sea
Rolling Home to Dear Old England
Rolling Home, Dear Land, To Thee

Up aloft amid the rigging
Blows the loud exultant gale
Like a bird’s wide outstretched pinions
Spreads on high each swelling sail
And the wild waves cleft behind us
Seem to murmur as they flow
There are loving arms that wait you
To the land to which you go

Many thousand miles behind us
Many thousand miles before
Ancient ocean wave heaves to waft us
To that well remembered shore
Cheer up Jack, bright smiles await you
From the fairest of the fair
And her loving eyes will greet you
With kind welcomes everywhere

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Sail Away

Sail Away image

This forebitter was also used as a capstan shanty where each verse was split into two four-line verses followed by a chorus. It was popular with British and American seamen (who sang dear New England) and even with German sailors (who sang dear Old Hamburg).

Irish sailors sang ‘Rolling home to dear Old Ireland’ and the tune used in Ireland for the song ‘Kevin Barry’ commemorating the execution in 1920 of the 18 year old Republican during the Irish War of Independence.

It is said to have been written aboard ship in 1858 by the Scots poet Charles Mackay. Mackay’s notes on the poem read:

'Written on board the Europa, homeward bound, 26th May 1858'
Some, however, think the song pre-dates the poem with only verses 2 and 3 having similarity.

I believe I was one of the first to record the song in 1977.

Jim Mageean