From the recording Six Strings and Coffee Beans

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© Bobby Sands (lyrics by Bobby Sands, melody by Gordon Lightfoot)

Mark Clavey – vocals, guitar
Mary Hanover – vocals, hammered dulcimer
Rachel Gaither – lead vocals, fiddle

A powerful and stirring story about the transportation of five-dozen Irish rebels to Australia following their participation in the ill-fated Rising of 1803 and the execution of their leader, the Bold Robert Emmet. The song, as performed here, comprises just half of the original poem, "The Voyage", written by Bobby Sands during his internment at Long Kesh Prison (1977-1981). Much has been made about the striking similarity between the song and "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald". Colm Scullion, who shared a cell in H-Block 3 with Bobby recounts, “I remember Bobby writing the song for all the Derry men in the wing. He was a fan of Gordon Lightfoot and borrowed the air and sang it out the door as we were not allowed out of the cells.” Colm relates that a Derry man named Ferguson passed the song on to Christy Moore, who takes up the tale as follows. “I was playing in Derry and staying with the Barrett Family. After my gig, we were gathered in Chamberlain Street having a banter and drinking tea when a bit of singing broke out. A lad, just home from The Blocks, sang these verses and subsequently wrote out the words for me. At the time the name Bobby Sands was not known to the world as it is today.” Here endeth the lesson.


In 1803 we took to the sea, out from the sweet quay of Derry. Australia-bound, if we didn't all drown, and the marks of our fetters we carried. In rusty iron chains we sighed for our weans, our women we left there in sorrow. As the mainsails unfurled, our curses we hurled on the English and thoughts of tomorrow.

At the mouth of the Foyle we bid farewell to the soil as down below-deck we were lying. O'Doherty screamed, woken out of his dream by a vision of Bold Robert dying. The sun burnt cruel as we dished out the gruel, Dan O'Connor was down with a fever. Sixty rebels that day bound for Botany Bay, how many would meet their Receiver.

I wish I was back home in Derry. Oh, I wish I was back home in Derry.

We cursed them to Hell as the bow fought the swell, the ship danced like a moth 'round the firelight. White horses rode high as the Devil passed by taking souls to Hades by twilight. Six weeks out to sea we were now forty-three, we buried our comrades each morning, and in our own slime we were lost in a time of endless days without dawning.

Oh, I wish I was back home in Derry, &c

Now Van Dieman's Land is a Hell on a man to live out his life in slavery - the weather is raw and the gun makes the law, and neither wind nor rain care for bravery. Twenty years have gone by and I've ended my bond, the ghosts of my friends walk beside me. Well a rebel I came and, sure, I'll die the same - on the cold winds of night you will find me.

Oh, I wish I was back home in Derry, &c