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Billy Reilley

[Bonnie Shaljean]

The story of Billy Reilley takes place during the Flight of the Wild Geese, a period in 18th-century Ireland when poverty and hard times caused many of the young men to leave their country and seek a new life in France.

Harp player and singer Bonnie Shaljean wrote Billy Reilley in 1979 and sang in with Packie Manus Byrne on their 1981 Dingle’s album Roundtower.

Beryl Graeme sang Billy Reilley in 1999 on her CD of songs in the traditional manner, Moth to a Flame.

Jackie Oates sang Billy Reilley in 2008 on her CD The Violet Hour.

Rosie Hood learned Billy Reilley from Jackie Oates’ album and recorded it as a bonus track for the Kickstarter supporters of her 2017 RootBeat CD, The Beautiful & the Actual.


Rosie Hood sings Billy Reilley

Billy Reilley, at thy rest,
Your father calls you from the past,
His voice is loud but you are blessed
With sleep and cannot hear him,
He doesn’t talk much anymore, Billy Reilley.

Long time ago you courted me,
In the summer days when the world ran free,
And love hung ripe on the rowan tree.
You played your father’s pipes
And all my joys abounded, Billy Reilley.

But time and other dreams took hold,
The land grew chill and the air ran cold,
And all the things that make young men old
Must send the wild geese flying.
You left me with your chlld, Billy Reilley.

Your father raged and made me swear
I’d never tell you, but I couldn’t bear
Unspoken names and whispering stares,
And worst of all the nights.
O curse the hour that I wrote you, Billy Reilley.

You sailed for home with the next tide in
But the ship was lost, and all men within.
And now all lreland’s grace can’t win you
out from the briny ocean,
My heart lies dead at m< feet, Billy Reilley.

Your father curses the rolling sea,
Tthe stormy winds, fair France, and me.
And I curse love, and my own baby
Cause life is not the short thing
That they would have you belleve, Billy Reilley.

The pipes will sing you fast asleep,
Where’er you lie in the ocean’s keep.
Forgive me if I no longer weep
As year by year I stay here
Imprisoned by my sins, Billy Reilley.
And You wouldnd recognise me, Billy Reilley.