> Folk Music > Songs > Kilnamartyra Exile

Kilnamartyra Exile

[ Roud 32278 ; Ballad Index OCan074 ; John Brown]

Niamh Parsons sang Kilnamartyra Exile in 1999 on her Green Linnet album Blackbirds & Thrushes. A live recording from the Marine Hall, Fleetwood, Lancashire, during the Fylde Folk Festival 2005 was released on her 2005 album Live at Fylde. She noted on the first album:

This song was given to me about 12 or 13 years ago by Tim Lyons—he also gave me another verse [shown below in brackets], but neither of us sings it. The air is from the great Cork sean nos song Cath Cheim an Fhia. This song was written by Johnny Brown of Cools, Kilnamartyra, who served in the First World War, became disillusioned and joined the St. John of God Brothers, serving as a missionary in Africa.

The song was probably written after the war. His relative Henry Brown still lives in Kilnamartyra. Thank you Donal Lehane for relating the story—he told me his father used to sing it while shaving with a cut-throat razor!

Tim Lyons sang Kilnamartyra Exile on his and John Lyons’ 2012 Veteran CD Easy & Bold. John Howson noted:

This poignant song of exile was written by John Brown who died in the mid 1970s. He was a well known local poet in Cil  na Martra (Kilnamartyra), which is near Macroom, half way between Cork City and Ballycasheen. His experiences in the First World War were said to have inspired him to write this song which describes the leaving of Ireland for America in search of wealth, only to be overtaken by misfortune and old age. The song was published in Songs of Cork by Tomás Ó Canainn (Gilbert Dalton Press) in 1978 and although it has not been widely recorded, the rendition by Danny Maidhcí Ó Súilleabháin on the 1999 Ossian CD The County Bounds (OSSCD11) is worthy of mention.


Niamh Parsons sings Kilnamartyra Exile

I am a lonely exile who left my own dear nation,
To seek a situation in a land beyond the foam;
I have travelled o’er the ocean, amidst hardship and through dangers,
And for years I’ve been a stranger from my own dear native home.
Once I lived contentedly, with friends I loved surrounding me.
Care nor grief ne’er troubled me nor made my heart feel sore;
And when my days are over and I’m parted from my country,
And Kilnamartyra’s homely face my eyes shall see no more.

It was there my heart felt happy before I took a notion
To sail across the ocean from the land that gave me birth;
Though dark and dismal clouds have cast their shadows o’er me,
And I knew but pleasure only when I lived on Irish earth.
And though the money tempted me far from my cabin home to flee,
And sail across the stormy sea in search of gold and store;
I sailed away from Erin, far from the land that bore me,
And I bade my friends in Ireland farewell for ever more.

[ Twelve long and weary winters have come and have departed,
Since I sailed across the ocean from where my father lies,
But still this loving heart of mine is ever fondly yearning,
For the home that I was born in and where I long to die.
The friends that once delighted me, in fancy’s dreams, I still can see,
Around the cabin fire with me, when our daily toil was o’er,
The songs and merry voices come rushing to my memory,
In my heart I’m sadly thinking, I shall never see them more. ]

I have travelled through Columbia, all toil and danger storming,
From its farthest eastern borders to the westward and the deep;
From its broad extending cotton fields on the plains of Alabama
To the coal mines of Montana midst the Rockies wild and steep.
I hunted for prosperity but still it has eluded me,
And bleak misfortune followed me, no matter where I’d roam,
And often in my anguish I cursed the fate that took me
From the comrades of my boyhood and the land I loved so dear.

Sweet boyhood recollections shall ever fondly bind me,
To the friends I left behind me, across the raging main;
And to you, sweet Kilnamartyra, where one time I resided,
But now I am divided by the ocean waves from thee.
Now youth is fast forsaking me and age is overtaking me,
And friends that once delighted me perhaps I’ll see no more;
And when my days are over and death has come and taken me,
I fondly will remember thee—dear land that I adore.