I'm Sitting on the Stile, Mary (The Irish Emigrant II)
DESCRIPTION: "Oh I'm sitting on the stile, Mary, where we sat side by side." He thinks of their life together and the graveyard where he buried her "with your babe all on your breast." He promises not to forget her "in that land I'm going to"
AUTHOR: Words: Lady Helena Selina Blackwood Dufferin (1807-1867), Music: William R. Dempster (1843?)
EARLIEST DATE: before 1835 (broadside, Bodleian Harding B 11(4048))
KEYWORDS: marriage emigration burial lament baby wife separation promise
FOUND IN: Canada(Newf) Ireland US(MW) Britain(England(South))
REFERENCES (7 citations):
Peacock, pp. 462-464, "I'm Sitting on the Stile, Mary" (1 text, 2 tunes)
O'Conor, p. 156, "The Irish Emigrant" (1 text)
Wiltshire-WSRO Mi 604, "Irish Emigrant" (1 text)
Dean, p. 81, "The Lament of the Irish Emigrant" (1 text)
BrownII 133, "I Was Sitting on a Stile" (1 fragment, which the editors apparently regard as a part of this song -- though with only four lines, it's almost unfileable)
ADDITIONAL: Edward Hayes, The Ballads of Ireland (Boston, 1859), Vol I, pp. 302-303, "The Lament of the Irish Emigrant"
Charles W. Eliot, editor, English Poetry Vol II From Collins to Fitzgerald (New York, 1910), #574, pp. 919-920, "Lament of the Irish Emigrant" (by bHelena Selina, Lady Dufferin)
ST Pea462 (Partial)
Nicholas Keough, "I'm Sitting on the Stile, Mary" (on PeacockCDROM) [one verse only]
Bodleian, Harding B 11(4048), "The Irish Emigrant" ("I'm sitting on the stile, Mary"), G. Walker (Durham), 1797-1834; also 2806 c.14(195) View 4 of 5, Harding B 11(1773), Firth b.25(157), Johnson Ballads 1690, Firth b.27(499), Firth c.12(134), Harding B 11(2181), Firth c.26(135), Harding B 11(465), 2806 c.16(140), Harding B 11(1778), Harding B 11(1777), Firth b.25(303), Harding B 11(239), Harding B 26(270), Harding B 6(18), 2806 b.10(93), 2806 b.10(76), Harding B 20(74), Harding B 15(139a), Harding B 11(1776), "The Irish Emigrant"
LOCSinging, as107440, "Lament of the Irish Immigrant," J. Andrews (New York), 1853-1859
Murray, Mu23-y4:016, "Irish Emigrant," John Ross (Newcastle), 19C
NLScotland, L.C.Fol.70.(2a), "The Irish Emigrant," Robert McIntosh (Glasgow), c. 1875
Parody on The Irish Emigrant (broadside Murray, Mu23-y1:068, "Parody on "The Irish Emigrant" ("I'm sitting on a rail Judy, Where oft across ye'd stride"), James Lindsay (Glasgow), 19C)
Soldier's Sister ("I am sitting in our camp, sister," by J. Dyer, of the 104th Reg't P[ennsylvania] V[olunteers]) (WolfAmericanSongSheets p. 145)
When I Was in the Tombs ("I am standing in the cell, Dina") (WolfAmericanSongSheets, p. 174)
The Irish Emigrant's Lament
NOTES: Not the song by William Kennedy.
GEST Songs of Newfoundland and Labrador site is one of many sources for the author of the words; Museum of the City of New York site refers to sheet music source for tunesmith.
Killeagh County Down site: The village of Killyleagh grew up around a fortified tower, built in the 12th century by a Norman knight, John de Courcy....Lady Helen Dufferin wrote the famous poem "The Lament of the Irish Emigrant" in the castle, It is still possible to visit Mary's Stile in the shadows of the Castle today.
Murray, Mu23-y1:068, "Parody on the Irish Emigrant," James Lindsay (Glasgow), 19C (the singer stays in Ireland, glad his wife has died)
Bodleian, Firth b.26(206), "Answer to the Irish Emigrant" ("I'm coming back to you, Mary, Australia's shores I find"), A. Ryle and Co. (London), 1845-1859; also Harding B 11(88), "Answer to the Irish Emigrant" (the singer returns from Australia)
LOCSinging, as107460, "Lament of the Irish Gold Hunter," J. Andrews (New York), 1853-1859; also as107450, "Lament of the Irish Gold Hunter!!" (Tune: "I'm Sitting on the Stile, Mary"; the singer is digging for gold but expects to return to Ireland, if he survives "sitting on the stile, Mary, Away up in the mines")
LOCSinging, hc00011a, "Paddy's Lament" ("I'm sitthin on de sthile, Molly, wid a grape shot in my leg"), Charles Magnus (New York), 1864 (Tune: "I'm sitting on the stile &c."; attributed to John Ross Dix; the singer is fighting in America for the Union but hopes to return "when peace returns once more."
"A new set of lyrics to William Dempster's [tune for] 'Lament of the Irish Emigrant' changed the subject from an oppressed Irishman to a drunken one: [two verse text]." (source: Robert R Grimes, How Shall We Sing in a Foreign Land? (1996, Notre Dame), p. 56, quoting an 1849 issue of Boston Pilot.).
Broadside LOCSinging as107440 and LOCSinging as107460: J. Andrews dating per Studying Nineteenth-Century Popular Song by Paul Charosh in American Music, Winter 1997, Vol 15.4, Table 1, available at FindArticles site. - BS
There is some question about who wrote the music to this. Amsco's uncredited book The Library of Irish Music lists the tune as by G. Barker. But many of its attributions are inaccurate.
Jon W. Finson, The Voices That Are Gone: Themes in Nineteenth-Century American Popular Song, Oxford University Press, 1994, p. 285, accepts the attribution to Dempster and says of him, "Dempster (b. 1808), a British immigrant, played an active role in the musical life of New York as a singer of Scottish and English 'ballads' (popular songs)."
Finson reports that 1844 saw the publication of a response, "The Answer to the Lament of the Irish Emigrant," by John S. Murphy and T. Bissel, and another sequel by Miss S. C. Cobb and F. W. Paisley. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.1
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2016 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.