Kilkelly, Ireland, eighteen and sixty

My dear and loving son, John

Your good friend the schoolmaster Pat MacNamara

So good as to write these words down

Your brothers have all gone to find work in England

The house is so empty and sad

The crop of potatoes is sorely infected

A third to half of them bad

And your sister Bridget and Patrick O’Donnell

Are going to be married in June

Your mother says not to work on the railroad

And be sure to come on home soon.


Kilkelly, Ireland, eighteen and seventy

My dear and loving son, John

Hello to your missus and to your four 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 dampness there’s no turf to speak of

And now there’s nothing to burn

And Bridget is happy you named a child for her

You know she’s got six of her own

You say you found work but you don’t say what kind

Oh when will you be coming home?


Kilkelly, Ireland, eighteen and eighty

Dear Michael and John, my sons

I’m sorry to give you the very sad news

That your dear old mother passed on

We buried her down at the church in Kilkelly

Your brothers and Bridget 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 poor and the people are selling

At any price that they can.


Kilkelly, Ireland, eighteen and ninety

My dear and loving son, John

I guess that I must be close on to eighty

It’s thirty years since you’ve gone

Because of all of the money you’ve sent me

I’m still living out on my own

Michael has built himself a fine house

And Bridget’s daughters are 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, eighteen and ninety two

My dear brother John

I’m sorry that I didn’t write sooner to tell you

That Father passed on

He was living with Bridget, she says he was cheerful

And healthy rigth down to the end

Ah, you should have seen him playing with the grandchildren

Of Pat MacNamara, 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 at the end

Oh, why don’t you think about coming to visit

We’d love to see you again.

(Peter and Steve Jones)