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English Folk-Heritage
If you read the lyrics it becomes patently obvious that this song has no relevance whatsoever to Irish emigration; and it is not, as widely claimed on Internet websites, a ‘Traditional Irish’ song just because the Dubliners recorded it. It is in fact a Lancashire maritime song from the English Tradition. It seems that only one example of the song was ever recorded from tradition, and the earliest published record is in Doerflinger's Songs of the Sailor and Lumberman (1951). History has it that an American sailor, Dick Maitland, while boatswain on the General Knox around 1885 learned it from a Liverpool sailor. According to Roy Palmer (Boxing the Compass, 2001) Burgess was captain of the Davy Crockett between 1863 and 1874, and suggests that the song dates from that period or a little after. The song itself paints a picture of hardship and brutality that today we can only imagine.


Farewell to Prince's Landing Stage, River Mersey, fare thee well
I am bound for California, A place I know right well

So fare thee well, my own true love, When I return united we will be
It's not the leaving of Liverpool that grieves me, But my darling when I think of thee

I'm bound for California, By the way of stormy Cape Horn
And I'm bound to write you a letter, love, When I am homeward bound

I have signed on a Yankee Clipper ship, Davy Crockett is her name
And Burgess is the Captain of her, And they say she's a floating Hell

I have shipped with Burgess once before, And I think I know him well
If a man's a seaman, he can get along, If not, then he's sure in Hell

Farewell to lower Frederick Street, Ensign Terrace and Park Lane
For I think it will be a long, long time, Before I see you again

Oh the sun is on the harbour, love, And I wish I could remain
For I know it will be a long, long time, Till I see you again

© PhilDrane Music 2016