Is Trua Nach Bhfuil Mé in Éirinn

It's a pity I'm not in Ireland
This is a traditional Irish song arranged by The Bothy Band. It appears on The Bothy Band’s first album The Bothy Ban more...

This is a traditional Irish song arranged by The Bothy Band. It appears on The Bothy Band’s first album The Bothy Band, released in 1975.

From Bill Richardson

The above local variant is known in multiple forms in many parts of Ireland. This complex of texts generally alludes more or less to the male speaker’s misfortune and his poor situation. The speaker usually refers clearly to his encounter with the law, and states that he has been accused in the wrong. The speaker also awaits his hanging in the morning; the striking difference between the rópa cruaidh cnáibe, the hard hempen rope, that will replace his cravat is especially graphic. The beginning of his misfortune is linked to the incessant drinking that has turned him into a vagabond, which is another trope common to male speakers in these songs. The mood is one of abject misery, being contrasted with his carefree youth just a short time previously. The disparity is emphasized in terms of place. When he was in Ireland, he was prospering with a big house being built. The reference to his head on a spike is unclear, suggesting perhaps an ill omen. This temporal blurring, however, only adds to the sense of the speaker’s confusion and numbing fatigue.

In Tory Island, the accompanying narrative of the text relates that the speaker of the song is in America. Clearly, he is an Irishman, an identity foregrounded in the first line and in the language in which the song is composed, Irish. He is in jail for a crime he says he did not commit. The offence, according to the Tory narrative, centers on a sexual assault or rape of a woman, Máire an Phéarla (Mary of the Pearl). In fact, he denies having had any dealings with her, but his fate is sealed; he is to be hanged. It is a gripping scene projecting a strong didactic message. The story of unhappy love carries the added twist of a criminal conviction for a sexual crime. Such a scenario reminds us of other similar situations in Irish folklore and history.

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It’s a pity I am not in Ireland
Where I was raised, where my life began.
Or at the foot of Fair Head
Or by the Erne close by

That’s where I’d find the young folk
Where I’d be sad and tired no more
And if I were but a year younger
I’d be off with them again

‘Tis a full year now
Since I lived in Barnhill
As my big house was being built
By masons down in Cork

[But now] my head will be atop a pike
Exposed to the big wind and the rain
[I swear] Ii I had relations with comely Máire
Upon my innocent soul, may I be sent to the next life

I’d buy a garden
If I could
I’d plant fine tall mustard in it
Topped with white blossoms

I’d plant oat seeds and barley seeds
Seeds from which you could make beer
‘Twas that barley and the cards
That had me wearing my bag on my back

As the moon rises
Or as the the sun sets
And as the tide heads
Into these western ports

I’d prefer to sleep with fever
Than in the painful throes of death
[With] my body in shackles
And they crushing into my skin

Dearest beloved brother
Bring my suitcase home with you to them all
[With] my socks and my shoes
And my black coloured cloaks

Bring the story back to my mother dear
Who is despairing now at home
That the heavy hangman’s rope
Will take the place of my tie

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