I Wish I had Someone to Love Me

Play recording: I Wish I had Someone to Love Me

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  • Teideal (Title): I Wish I had Someone to Love Me.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 840120.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 767.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): unavailable.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 24/01/1984.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): evening class.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

This is the only song in the English language my grandmother had. And she’s the only one I heard singing it. But I think nowadays a lot of people has it, because I think it’s a beautiful song… When she was singing it, when we were present, she said ‘someone to be with me nightly’ – she wouldn’t say ‘sleep with me nightly.’ But as we grew older we found out that she had missed a word there – so.

I wish I had someone to love me
Someone to call me his own
Someone to sleep with me nightly
I’m weary of sleeping alone.

Tonight is our last night together
The nearest and dearest must part
The love that once bound us together
Has cruelly been torn apart.


Meet me tonight in the moonlight
Meet me in somewhere alone
I have a sad story to tell you
That I’ll tell by the light of the moon.


I wish I had ships on the ocean
I’d line them with silver and gold
I’d fly to the arms of my true love
A young lad of nineteen years old.


If I had the wings of a swallow
I’d fly far over the sea
I’d follow the ship that he sails in
And bring him home safely to me.



Here is a good example of Joe’s teaching technique with a group of people – including the digressions that often led to false-starts and interesting detours. Although not himself an ethnomusicologist, Joe has clearly absorbed some of what he has heard from academic colleagues – for example, his reference to ‘broken-token’ songs – and some of their research techniques. His efforts to assemble a fuller version of the song than he had had learned at home led him to ‘The Prisoner’s Song,’ an American song which was a worldwide hit in the 1920’s for Vernon Dalhart, which contains a couple of additional verses. Like many other such recordings, copies of ‘The Prisoner’s Song’ doubtless made their way to Ireland, where the song (or permutations of it) entered the repertoire of many traditional singers – as evidenced by its appearance Sam Henry’s Songs of the People (H746, p. 62, University of Georgia Press, 1990).

As here, Joe was in the habit of telling his audiences that he learned this song from his grandmother, who spoke very little English but who did happen to know at least some verses of this song. In a conversation with Lucy Simpson, however, he also names another old woman in the village, Bridget Canavan, as having had the song (UW853901).

The notion that Lucy herself was Joe’s source for this song probably stems from a remark Joe made on one of Lucy’s tapes – ‘This is your song!’ – which was taken as an attribution by Joe’s biographer, Liam Mac Con Iomaire (Seosamh Ó hÉanaí: Nár fhagha mé bás choíche, Cló Iar-Chonnachta (2007), 324, referring to UW 853911). Lucy and Joe’s discussion on that same tape, however, reveals that Joe had been enquiring at home in Carna for the missing verses, and was frustrated that none of the other members of his family was able to supply them. Joe’s remark probably means that he thought of it as Lucy’s song to sing – that she should learn it and sing it in public – not that she was the one who gave it to him in the first place.