Celtic Crush Sunday- “Kilkelly” – Moloney, Keane and O’Connell.  This is a heartbreaking song about immigration. A son leaves Ireland for the United States in the mid 1800’s. The song is based on actual letters – the complete story is attached below.



(Peter Jones)

Kilkelly, Ireland, 1860, my dear and loving son John
Your good friend schoolmaster Pat McNamara's so good
as to write these words down.
Your brothers have all got a fine work in England,
the house is so empty and sad
The crop of potatoes is sorely infected,
a third to a half of them bad.
And your sister Brigid and Patrick O'Donnell
are going to be married in June.
Mother says not to work on the railroad
and be sure to come on home soon.

Kilkelly, Ireland, 1870, my dear and loving son John
Hello to your Mrs and to your 4 children,
may they grow healthy and strong.
Michael has got in a wee bit of trouble,
I suppose that he never will learn.
Because of the darkness there's no turf to speak of
and now we have nothing to burn.
And Brigid is happy, we named a child for her
and now she's got six of her own.
You say you found work, but you don't say
what kind or when you will be coming home.

Kilkelly, Ireland, 1880, dear Michael and John, my sons
I'm sorry to give you the very sad news
that your dear old mother has gone.
We buried her down at the church in Kilkelly,
your brothers and Brigid were there.
You don't have to worry, she died very quickly,
remember her in your prayers.
And it's so good to hear that Michael's returning,
with money he's sure to buy land
For the crop has been bad and the people
are selling at every price that they can.

Kilkelly, Ireland, 1890, my dear and loving son John
I suppose that I must be close on eighty,
it's thirty years since goodbye.
Because of all of the money you send me,
I'm still living out on my own.
Michael has built himself a fine house
and Brigid's daughters have grown.
Thank you for sending your family picture,
they're lovely young women and men.
You say that you might even come for a visit,
what joy to see you again.

Kilkelly, Ireland, 1892, my dear brother John
I'm sorry I didn't write sooner to tell you, but father passed on.
He was living with Brigid, she says he was cheerful

 and healthy right down to the end.
Ah, you should have seen him play with
the grandchildren of Pat McNamara, your friend.
And we buried him alongside of mother,
down at the Kilkelly churchyard.

He was a strong and a feisty old man,
considering his life was so hard.
And it's funny the way he kept talking about you,
he called for you in the end.
Oh, why don't you think about coming to visit,
we'd all love to see you again.

recorded by Moloney, O'Connell & Keane on "Kilkelly" (1988)
copywrite Green Linnet Music 1983
130 years after his great grandfather left the small village of Kilkelly in
Co. Mayo, Peter Jones found a bundle of letters sent to him by his father
in Ireland. The letters tell of family news, births, death, sales of land and
bad harvests. They remind the son, that he is loved, missed and remembered
by his family in Ireland. The final letter informs him that his father, whom
he has not seen for 30 years, has died, the last link with home is broken.
Peter Jones used these letters to make this song.

The "trouble" in verse two is probably the Fenian rising of 1867.


  1. Very heartwarming, yet sad. It’s the high price we pay when we move far from home, especially overseas, causing us to not see family and old friends for years at a time, sometimes never again.

    • back in that time- leaving for America was probably most often leaving behind family and friends forever.

  2. Went through multiple kleenex listening to this one, Hans. I also followed your link and then followed the link about why the Irish famine is not covered in depth in American (and probably other countries’) history books. Thank you for sharing and educating with your post today.

    • That is a heartbreaking song- and I’ve heard it hundreds of times- I can’t imagine finding those letters and reading them. ..

  3. Pingback: CELTIC CRUSH SUNDAY- “KILKELLY”-MOLONEY, KEANE AND O’CONNELL — slicethelife – Tao Talk·

Comments are closed.