Widow from Mayo, The

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  • Teideal (Title): Widow from Mayo, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 850403.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 5334.
  • 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): Jill Linzee.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): between 1982 and 1984.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

On a sunny summer’s evening in the merry month of May
To a local railway station I carelessly did stray
I heard a widow wailing, down her cheeks the tears did flow
Her only daughter was going away, far far from sweet Mayo.


‘Musha, grá mo chroí, you’re parting me,’ she mournfullly did moan
‘You’re going away across the sea, and leaving me alone
To face the breeze of the stormy seas, you’re bound for Mexico
You could not stand the tyrant’s hand in flowery sweet Mayo.

‘My curse on you oppressors that sent you to a foreign shore
No more you’ll travel the green old sod, outside my cabin door
It’s foreign lords have been the cause of all our grief and woe
For tyrants cruel do now misrule the people of Mayo.’


‘Croagh Patrick high up in the sky, this year I cannot climb
And around Clew Bay I cannot sail, in this good old summertime
With the lovely sheen of the shamrock green I often trampled down
With the girls so neat and the boys so sweet in my own native town.

‘Forgive those cruel oppressors now, before I bid goodbye
For they have yet one judge to meet, the Lord who rules in high
If it was death’s sentence that parted us, God’s will we must obey
For it’s poverty that now sends me to the lands of Americay.’


‘And when you’re on the ocean blue, for you I will always pray
In hope that God will bring you safe to the land of Americay
His blessed Mother may guide you, I fervently implore
Until you do return again to your home in sweet Mayo.’


‘It breaks my heart that I must part from all I love so dear
My comrades all, both great and small, o’er the ocean I must steer
I have to sigh as I bid goodbye to my mother who’s old and grey
Farewell awhile, green Erin’s isle, I’m bound for Americay.’


This song (also known as ‘Flowery Sweet Mayo’) is somewhat confusing until you realize that it takes the form of a dialogue, as suggested above. Joe also recorded the song for Ewan Mac Coll and Peggy Seeger in 1963, and it is included on the CD produced from those recordings, The Road from Conamara. While the scene may seem overly melodramatic to our generation, Joe’s passionate involvement in songs like ‘The Widow from Mayo’ and ‘A Stór mo Chroí’ reflects their resonance with Irish people at a time when emigration meant nothing less than permanent separation from loved ones.

Tom Munnelly, in his review of The Road from Conamara, points out that when Joe recorded the song for Mac Coll and Seeger:

Disenfranchised Irish people were everywhere on the streets of Britain and North America, with little hope of returning home permanently. Songs such as this touched a deep chord in the hearts of Irish people, at home or abroad, who found these songs extremely moving.

Air: ‘The Faithful Sailor Boy’.