There’s a bit of a debate among singers and song collectors as to the origin of this song and whether or not Craigie Hill(s) is an actually location or just a generic name, although many agree it is an Ulster song. And there is some agreement that the song was brought to the public’s attention through the singing of the great Paddy Tunney, who got the song off his mother. Here’s a version from the great Dolores Keane.
It being in spring and the small birds they were singing
Down by a shady arbour I carelessly did stray
Where the thrushes they were warbling
The violets they were charming
For to view two lovers talking a while I did delay
She said, “My dear, don’t leave me all for another season
Though fortune may be pleasing I’ll go along with you
I’ll give up friends and relations and quit this Irish nation
And to the bonnie Bann banks forever I’ll bid adieu”
He said, “My dear, don’t grieve me or yet annoy my patience
You know I love you dearly although I’m going away
I’m going to some foreign nation to purchase a plantation
For to comfort us hereafter all in America.
Then after a short while a fortune does be pleasing,
‘Twill cause them for smile at our late going away,
We’ll be happy as Queen Victoria, all in her greatest glory,
We’ll be drinking wine and porter all in Amerikay.
The landlords and their agents, their bailiffs and their beagles
The land of our forefathers we’re forced for to give o’er
And we’re sailing on the ocean for honor and promotion
And we’re parting with our sweethearts, it’s them we do adore
If you were in your bed lying and thinking of dying
One sight of the bonny Bann banks, your sorrows you’d give o’er
And if your were but one hour all in her shady bower
Pleasure would surround you, You’d think on death no more
So fare thee well, sweet Craigie Hill, where ofttimes I have roved in
I never thought in my childhood days I’d part you any more
But we’re sailing on the ocean for honour and promotion
And the bonny boat’s sailing way down by Doorin shore
And for those of you who have scrolled this far, here’s a bonus version from Dick Gaughan.