Kilkelly, Ireland, 18 and 60, my dear and loving son John
Your good friend the schoolmaster
Pat McNamara's 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 a half of them bad.
And your sister Brigid 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, 18 and 70, 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 guess that he never will learn.
Because of the dampness there's no turf to speak of
now we have nothing to burn.
And Brigid is happy, you named a child for her
although 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, 18 and 80, 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 poor and the people
are selling at any price that they can.


Kilkelly, Ireland, 18 and 90, my dear and loving son John
I guess that I must be close on to eighty,
it's thirty years since you're gone.
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, 18 and 92, my dear brother John
I'm sorry that I didn't write sooner to tell you that 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.


Lyrics submitted by gwerith

Kilkelly song meanings
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3 Comments

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  • 0
    General CommentThis is an incredible song
    One of the, if not the best stories I've ever heard in a song..
    I have the version by the Dubliners.
    Androooon January 31, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is about a man who leaves home to find work. Each verse is a letter from his father to him except for the last one which is from his brother. He is gone from home and neer reurns as life wooshes by at home. His Father dies without seeing him for 40 years i think it was. VERY sad song, I can't listen to it without welling up.

    Moral: Keep in touch with your parents, you never know when it will be too late...
    gwerithon March 20, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentGreat song with a clear cut meaning.
    Even I have not returned home in 30+ years. Must be the Irish blood in me.
    Wirenutingon May 17, 2015   Link

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