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Back Home In Derry

Music by Gordon Lightfoot and lyrics by B. Sands.  First made popular by Christy Moore on his recording "Ride On" in 1984.

Notes from Kathleen: We first I heard this song in a little pub somewhere and the performer wrote the words down on a bar napkin. I remember that we gave him a couple of free pints to say thanks. Please read below comments about Bobby Sands by two of our visitors.

Lyrics we sing:

1)    In 1803 we sailed out to sea
Out from the sweet town of Derry.
For Australia bound if we didn't all drown
And the marks of our letters were heavy
In the rusty iron chains we signed for our wanes
Our women we left there in sorrow
As the main sails unfurled, our cares we hurled
At the English and the thoughts of tomorrow
 
Refrain: oh....oh, I wish I was back home in Derry.
              Oh....oh, I wish I was back home in Derry.
 
2) At the mouth of the foil, bid farwell to the soil
As down below decks we were lying.
O'Docherty's scream woke him out of a dream
By a vision of bold Robert dying.
The sun burned cruel and they dished out the gruel
Dan O'Connor was down with the fever
Sixty rebels that day bound for botany bay
How many would reach there this evening?
 
3) I cursed them to hell, as our bow fought the swill
Our ship danced like moths on the firelight
Wild horses rode high as the devil passed by
Taking souls into Hades by twilight light
Five weeks out to sea we were now 43
We buried our comrades each morning
And in our own slime, forgotten by time
Endless days without dawning
 
4) Van diemens land is a hell for a man
To live out his life in slavery
Where the climate is raw and the gun makes the law
In the winds of eight care of bravery
Twenty years have gone by and I've emptied my bond
My comrades' ghosts walk beside me
Well a rebel I came and sure I'll die the same
On a cold winters night you will find me.
 
2x refrain

There Can Be Only One  - CD; Go Lassie Go - Tape

___________________________________________________________________________

Following is a comment from our Guest Book: Ciaran Killen, 1/24/04, Location: Belfast, Northern Ireland

"I just came across your site by accident. I wanted to check the lyrics of the song "Back Home in Derry" written by (one B.Sands.)  I don't like the way you referred to him as a terrorist and in fact I don't think many people from Ireland would agree with you.

Bobby Sands died for a cause what he truly believed in.

thanks......."

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Following is background on the song and original words by James Precious

"I was just surfing' on through when I noticed you "never found the undisputed origin" of the marvelous "Back Home in Derry". Pens & paper at the ready, folks - here we go...

"Back Home in Derry" was written by Bobby Sands (who also used the pen name Marcella). Sands is an Irishman who is more famous (or one should say: notorious) for his involvement with the IRA & as a hunger striker than he is as a poet & songwriter.

As authority, may I cite the great Christy Moore? Christy includes this song in his repertoire and acknowledges Sands as the creator of the song. In his book "One Voice: My life in Song" Christy writes that he first came across the song when "I was staying in a house in Derry after an H-block concert and a young lad recently released sang this song..."

That this eloquent and poignant song of resistance and rebellion in Irish history was in fact created by a man involved with terrorism in the here-and-now adds a further level of meaning and a very unsettling edge to the ballad. It also made the song highly controversial & got it banned, but Christy goes on to note that "despite it being banned it has entered the national repertoire and has been recorded by a thousand ballad bands and will long outlive its detractors and severest critics."

I was struck by this extraordinary song when I first heard it (which is saying something as the album I heard it on (Christy Moore's "Ride On") is chockablock with fabulous songs). Glancing at the sleeve notes I saw that Christy himself hadn't written it, but that one "B. Sands" was the creator, but  at the time, I didn't think much of this.

It took a while before I realized that B. Sands esq. - eloquent bard & poet - was the famous IRA man, & (like many people I suspect in the North or the mainland), my jaw hit the floor and I was quite shocked (though I knew Christy was famous for his pro-Republican sympathies). Christy himself said that he'd been lambasted by people for including a terrorist's song in his repertoire.

|t's also kind of surprising to discover that this great song has a modern provenance, rather than stemming from the period of Irish history it ostensibly depicts: the forced deportation of Irish rebels to Australia. The lyrics draws on history and tradition, yet was created in modern times. This, and also the creator's direct connection with terrorism/freedom fighting, does (I think) add another dimension to the song,. It makes the ballad and the sentiments of sorrow and fierce rebellion it expresses all the more vivid, immediate and controversial; even as I said - disturbing. It is however - at the end of the day - a beautiful piece of work & I'm sure both Bobby Sands & Christy Moore would be happy with the song spreading on napkins for a pint of the black stuff.

P.S. I strongly recommend Christy Moore's fabulous rendition of this song on his 1984 album "Ride On".

Original Words:

In 1803, we sailed out to sea
Out of the sweet town of Derry
For Australia bound, if we didn't all drown
The marks of out fetters we carried
In our rusty iron chains, we cried for our wains  (i.e. wee 'uns = children)
Our good women we left in sorrow
As the mainsails unfurled, our curses we hurled
At the English and thoughts of tomorrow

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

At the mouth of the Foyle bid farwell to the soil
As down below decks we were lying.
O'Docherty' screamed, woken out of a dream
By a vision of bold Robert dying.
The sun burned cruel as we dished out the gruel
Dan O'Connor was down with a fever
Sixty rebels today bound for Botany Bay.
How many would reach their receiver?

<refrain>

We cursed them to Hell,
As our bow fought the swell
Our ship danced like a moth in the firelight.
Wild horses rode high as the devil passed by
Taking souls into Hades by twilight
Five weeks out to sea we were now 43
We buried our comrades each morning
In our own slime, lost in a time,
Endless nights without dawning

<refrain>

Van Diemens Land is a hell for a man
To live out his whole life in slavery
Where the climate is raw and the gun makes the law
Neither wind nor rain care for bravery
Twenty years have gone by and I've ended my bond
My comrades' ghosts walk behind me
A rebel I came; I'm still the same

On a cold winter's night you will find me. (or on the cold winds of night...)

<refrain>"


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