Notes

Original poem by
C. Fox Smith

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Rathlin Head

Poem by Cicely Fox Smith © 1919

Adapted for singing by Mike Kennedy © 2010
Wording changes by Charlie Ipcar 7/1/11

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ship in the morning mistWe left the murk of Merseyside, we left the flaring town;
All smouldering red by Spanish Head the stormy sun went down;
We saw the lamp gleam out, in the Mull o' Galloway,
At the edge of night toward Rathlin Light, we steamed out from the Bay –
Before the light of morning.

Black deep of night without a star, both sky and sea did fill;
So cautious crept we through the dark, our engines near stood still;
All salt like tears on rope and rail, the sea mist clinging grey –
With Rathlin Island close to port, Kintyre to starboard lay
Before the light of morning.

We heard across the blind black tide the lighthouse boom forlorn;
All night we heard a Glasgow barque, blowing the old cow's horn,
And groping slow we passed her by, a bare ship's length away –
"A near thing with that barque, me lad," I heard the Old Man say –
Before the light of morning.

And so, good-bye the narrow seas and the forelands roaring foam!
There's many the turning in the road that brings the sailor home;
Full speed once more our engines throbbed, as faint the east grew grey;
And I turned my face to Rathlin Head, and a long good-bye did say
In the cold grey light of morning. (2X)

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Rathlin Head

By Cicely Fox Smith 1919
From Songs and Chanties: 1914-1916, edited by Cicely Fox Smith,
published by Elkin Mathews, London, UK, © 1919, pp. 95-97

We left the murk of Merseyside, we left the flaring town;
All smouldering red by Spanish Head the stormy sun went down;
We saw the lamp blink out and in the Mull o' Galloway,
And at dead of night to Rathlin Light a long good-bye did say

On a bitter cold night in the morning watch,
A little before the day!

Black deep of night without a star both sky and sea did fill;
So cautious crept we through the dark our engines near stood still;
All salt like tears on rope and rail the sea mist clinging grey . . .
And Rathlin Island close to port, Kintyre to starboard lay

On a bitter cold night in the morning watch,
A little before the day!

We heard across the blind black tide the lighthouse boom forlorn,
All night we heard a Glasgow barque blowing the old cow's horn;
And groping slow we passed her by a bare ship's length away
"A near thing with the barque," was all I heard the Old Man say

On a bitter cold night in the morning watch,
A little before the day!

All houseless stretch the unfenced fields that cold and green do roll
Where winds do herd the berg and floe which calve about the Pole;
Oh, peace be on the small green fields of a land that's far away,
And on the little farms therein where folks a-sleeping lay

On a bitter cold night in the morning watch,
A little before the day!

And oh, good-bye the narrow seas and forelands loud wi' foam!
There's many a turning in the road that brings the sailor home;
Full speed once more our engines throbbed as faint the east grew grey,
I turned my face to Rathlin Head, a long good-bye to say

On a bitter cold night in the morning watch,
A little before the day!

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Notes:

From Songs and Chanties: 1914-1916, edited by Cicely Fox Smith, published by Elkin Mathews, London, UK, © 1919, pp. 95-97.

"Rathlin Light" is located on Rathlin Island, North Channel, Northern Ireland, while "Kintyre" is a peninsula in western Scotland. Rathlin Island is an L-shaped island with the "L" opening to the southwest. The Island therefore has headlands at the southeast point, the northwest point, and where the two legs of the "L" meet to the northeast; there is a lighthouse at each location. A lighthouse is mentioned in the song three times as the ship travels from the Irish Sea through the North Channel and then out into the North Atlantic, each a different lighthouse.

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