Across the Western Ocean
DESCRIPTION: "Oh, the times are hard and the wages low, Amelia, where you bound to? The Rocky Mountains is my home Across the western ocean." The emigrants leave poverty behind to set out for better conditions in America. Unusual passengers may be described
EARLIEST DATE: 1927 (Sandburg-TheAmericanSongbag)
KEYWORDS: emigration poverty hardtimes
FOUND IN: US
REFERENCES (9 citations):
Colcord-SongsOfAmericanSailormen, p. 118, "Across the Western Ocean" (1 text, 1 tune)
Harlow-ChantyingAboardAmericanShips, pp. 58-59, "Across the Western Ocean" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hugill-ShantiesFromTheSevenSeas, pp. 292-293, "Across the Rockies," "Across the Western Ocean" (2 texts, 1 tune) [AbrEd pp. 215-216]
Sandburg-TheAmericanSongbag, p. 412, "Leave Her, Bullies, Leave Her" (2 text, 1 tune, but the "A" text is "Leave Her, Johnny, Leave Her")
Shay-AmericanSeaSongsAndChanteys, pp. 71-72, "Across the Western Ocean" (1 text, 1 tune)
Scott-TheBalladOfAmerica, pp. 150-151, "Across the Western Ocean" (1 text, tune referenced)
Henry/Huntingdon/Herrmann-SamHenrysSongsOfThePeople H96, p. 96, "It's Time for Us to Leave Her" (1 text, 1 tune -- a fragment, short enough that it could be this or "Leave Her, Johnny, Leave Her")
Silber/Silber-FolksingersWordbook, p. 88, "Across the Western Ocean" (1 text)
cf. "Leave Her, Johnny, Leave Her" (floating lyrics; tune)
cf. "Uncle Bill Teller" (form, lyrics)
NOTES [153 words]: Shay attempted to find a ship Amelia that might have been the inspiration for the chorus. He found none that fit, and suggested "O'Malley" as a possible emendation. Of course, the other possibility (as he himself admits) is that Amelia is just a girl.
Shay also has an unusual verse, in which the sailor heads across the ocean "To join the Irish army." Shay does not connect this with any sort of militarism; he thinks it applies simply to the mass emigration of the Irish to America.
Stephen Fox, Transatlantic: Samuel Cunard, Isumbard Brunel, and the Great Atlantic Steamships, Harper Collins, 2003, p. 169, makes the same observation. Pointing to a verse which runs "To Liverpool I'll make my way... To Liverpool that Yankee school," he suggests that this is about the small boats which carried Irish refugees from Cork and Dublin to Liverpool, where they could board a packet ship for New York or Boston. - RBW
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