Leaving of Liverpool, The

Play recording: Leaving of Liverpool, The

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Leaving of Liverpool, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781506.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 9435.
  • 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): Esther Warkov.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 07/03/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): interview.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

The sea-chanty. As I told you, chantys come from the word sean-teach which means ‘old house.’ And long ago when the sailors came in from sea… they used to bring a barrel of rum into the sean-teach and start drinking. Of course, the pubs that time wasn’t as modern as they are now, so when you had a barrel of rum, maybe smuggled off somewhere, you drank it in the sean-tigh. ‘The Leaving of Liverpool.’ Maybe you heard it already?

Farewell to Prince’s landing-stage
River Mersey, fare thee well.
I am bound for California,
A place I know quite well.

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

I sailed aboard of a Yankee ship
Davy Crockett was her name
And Burgess is the captain of her
And they know she’s a floating shame.


I sailed again with Burgess
He’s a man I know quite well;
If a man’s a sailor he can get along
But if not, he is sure in Hell.


The sun is on the harbour, love,
I know I can’t remain
But I know it will be a long, long time
Before I see you again.



Strictly speaking, this song is not a sea chanty (a sailors’ work-song). But in fairness to Joe, many people would be unaware of the term’s exact meaning, and use it in a more general sense.

His derivation of ‘chanty’ from the Irish sean-teach (‘old house’) is doubtful: chanty surely derives from the French chanter (‘to sing’). The Irish sean-tigh (pronounced shan-tee or shan-tig, and a variant of sean-teach) is, however, the most likely origin of the English word ‘shanty’ — a tumbledown house (also an unlicensed boozer; in Australia especially).

This was recorded while Joe was Artist in Residence at University of Washington.