‘If We Only Had Old Ireland Over Here’…‘And Dublin Town to Brooklyn Came to Stay’
By John Alexander
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The late Irish balladeer Glen Curtin had recorded a version of the Irish/Australian folk song “If We Only Had Old Ireland Over Here,” altering the lyrics to reflect life in New York.
The traditional ballad romanticizes the iconic Irish imagery of the Erin Isle mirrored against the Australian landscape. The original lyric finds the singer longing for the beauty of Ireland while living in Australia.
The opening verse sets up the premise of the singer dreaming of the lovely sights he has seen in Ireland. That verse remains the same in both versions:
“I was dreaming of old Ireland and Killarney’s lakes and dells,
I was dreaming of the shamrock and the dear old Shannon bells,
When my memory suggested in a vision bright and clear,
All the strange things that would happen if we had old Ireland here.”
The original chorus reads:
“If the Blarney Stone stood out on Sydney harbor,
And Dublin town to Melbourne came to stay,
If the Shannon River joined the Brisbane waters,
And Killarney's lakes flowed into Botany Bay”
The altered chorus goes:
“If the Blarney Stone stood out on Staten Island,
And Dublin town to Brooklyn came to stay,
If the Shannon water joined the Hudson River,
And Killarney’s lakes flowed into Rockaway”
Folk songs are often adapted to reflect the region they are being performed in. This particular song was originally written to emphasize the inextricable bond between Ireland and Australia. Their shared history has been linked for generations, since Colonial times, when Australia was a penal colony for political felons who were transported there by sea.
The journey was often long and difficult, as ships navigated the stormy seas around the Cape of Good Hope. Songs such as this one and “The Wild Colonial Boy,” memorably recorded by Mick Jagger on the soundtrack of the movie “Ned Kelly,” reaffirm the shared history of the two countries.
So, if you are Irish or just looking for the perfect song to sing on St. Patrick’s Day, look no further than “If We Only Had Old Ireland Over Here.” Both versions are available on iTunes and Amazon, and it will certainly put a twinkle in your Irish eyes as you ponder how the Blarney Stone would actually look on Staten Island.