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Love is Kind

[ Roud - ; Mudcat 159400 ; trad.]

Robin Roberts sang Love Is Kind in 1959 on her Tradition album Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies.

The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem sang Love Is Kind in 1968 on their Columbia album Sing of the Sea. They noted:

Robin Roberts, from whom we learned this song, thought it came from sailors on the China run, and the maid in the song was a Chinese girl. The song has all the flavor of lonely men with sweet memories.

Cyril Tawney sang Love Is Kind in 1992 on his Neptune Tapes cassette In Every Port. According to the Mudcat Café thread linked to above, his version had an additional penultimate verse:

Here’s my blessing let it be
May you love as she loved me.

Lankum (then still known as Lynched) sang Love Is Kind on their 2014 album Cold Old Fire. They noted:

Robin Roberts, the American singer and folksong collector, who accompanied Alan Lomax and Séamus Ennis on their Irish collecting trips in 1951 and 1953, sang this song which came from a retired clipper ship’s sailor living in Massachusetts. We first heard it from the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem on their LP Sing of the Sea (1968). The refrain has been variously interpreted as ‘E awa’, ‘Hie awa’, ‘Haul awa’, and even ‘i a bha’, Scots Gaelic for ‘she was’. Interestingly, no-one seems to have understood it as the Gaelic ‘Oíche mhaith’ (Goodnight), which we always have. We respectfully dedicate this song to the memory of Teresa Dermody.

Nick Dow sang Love Is Kind on his 2020 album of love songs from the British Tradition, In a Garden Grove. He noted:

Collected by Alan Lomax from the retired Captain of a Yankee Clipper. Swiped by me from the band ‘Lankum’. I sent Ian (from Lankum) some of my recordings of Gypsy singers. Fair exchange is no robbery. The chorus is in Gaelic and is a blessing. This is becoming one of my most requested songs.

The Unthanks sang Sorrows Away in 2022 as the title track of their album Sorrows Away. Their version is a composite of Thousands or More and Love Is Kind. Becky Unthank noted:

Love Is Kind is a traditional Irish song we’ve traced back to singer Sarah Makem from Co Armagh, who sang the Gaelic Oíche Mhaith, meaning goodnight, as the refrain. It has been suggested that the pronunciation of this is ‘Ee-hah-wah’ which after passing through many hands turned into Heave Awa. We learnt it from the wonderful singer Jim Mageean.


Lankum sing Love Is Kind

Oh love is kind to the least of men
    Oíche Mhaith
Though he be but a drunken tar
    Oíche Mhaith

So far from men, and the sight of land
Haul along, the sailor man

So take me to that star‐eyed maid,
For I was happy with her lain

Oh in the comfort of her bed
Let me lie until I’m dead

For love is kind to the least of men
Though he be but a drunken tar