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George ‘Geordie’ Hanna sang Brockagh Brae in his sister Sarah Anne O'Neill's home near Derrytresk, Coalisland, Co Tyrone, to Robin Morton in 1977. This recording was included in the following year on his and Sarah Anne O'Neill's Topic album of traditional songs of a Tyrone family, On the Shores of Lough Neagh. The track was also included in 1998 on the Topic anthology of songs of exile and emigration, Farewell, My Own Dear Native Land (The Voice of the People Volume 4). John Moulden noted on the original album:
Emigration to Scotland was a not unusual feature of life in depressed West Ulster but such a swift turn round, as in this song, was rare. The description of the sea journey, though, points the significance to the emigrant of being sundered from home and family. This song was sung widely in the area round Brockagh, a district on the Lough Neagh shore about three miles north of Derrytresk and is localised there. Geordie learned it from various people but completed his version from Paddy McMahon, member of another singing family, who lived nearby. Many of Geordie’s songs come at least partly from the McMahons. The distinctive air is used sometimes as a march by Ceili bands. Len Graham has a version The Roslea Farewell sung by Marie McEntee of Threemilehouse, Co Monoghan and Sam Henry had a set from Ballymena which he did not publish in the Songs of the People series which appeared from 1923 to 1939 in the “Northern Constitution” newspaper of Coleraine and which Henry was largely responsible for.
Geordie Hanna sings Brockagh Brae
One night as I lay slumbering in my silent bed alone,
Some rakish thoughts came in my head and it caused me for to roam,
For to leave my native country and the wee girl I adore.
So I thought it fit to take a trip strange lands to explore.
Now the night before that I went away I was walking up Brockagh Hill
When I met my darling upon the road and her eyes with tears did fill.
“Stay you at home, dear John,” she said, “and do not go away,
For I'll have none to comfort me when you are on the sea.”
Well, I took her by the lily-white hands and I held her hard and fast,
Saying, “Adieu, my darling, I must obey for my ship lies in Belfast.
But if you prove loyal, sure, I'll prove true for you know that I'm well inclined.”
So we kissed, shook hands and parted and I left my wee girl behind.
Now, when I landed in Belfast, sure, our ship she was in full sail.
Away she went down the lough with a soft and pleasant gale.
She was sailing o’er the ocean where her foaming billows roar,
So with thanks be to the heavens above that we landed safe on shore.
Now when I landed in Greendock, sure, the people all gathered around.
They said I was a rakish lad come to cut the harvest down.
They told me to return home and never no more to be seen,
So without delay, sure, I sail straightaway for Erin's lovely green.
Now, when Mary heard that her John was home her heart it did beat with joy,
Saying, “Come into my arms, you're my darling lovely boy.”
Saying, “Come into my arms, for you I have thought a great long.
So let them all say as they will; our wedding it will go on.”
Now, Brockagh Brae’s a nice wee place where nice wee girls live in.
You would swear they were the nightingales when they set down to sing.
Where the salmon trout all sport about round Lough Neagh's verdant shore.
So let them all say as they will; you are mine for ever more.