“I'm Sitting on the Stile, Mary (The Irish Emigrant II)”

Alternate titles: “The Irish Emigrant's Lament”
Author: Words: Lady Helena Selina Blackwood Dufferin (1807-1867), Music: William R. Dempster (1843?)
Earliest date: before 1835 (broadside, Bodleian Harding B 11(4048))
Keywords: marriage emigration burial lament baby wife separation promise
Found in: Canada(Newf) Ireland US(MW)


"Oh I'm sitting on the stile, Mary, where we sat side by side." He thinks of their life together and the graveyard where he buried her "with your babe all on your breast." He promises not to forget her "in that land I'm going to"

Supplemental text

I'm Sitting on the Stile, Mary (The Irish Emigrant II)
  Partial text(s)

          *** A ***

I'm Sitting on the Stile, Mary (The Irish Emigrant)

From Kenneth Peacock, Songs of the Newfoundland Outports, Volume II,
Text A, pp. 462-463. Sung by James and Lucy Heaney, Stock Cove,
July 1952.

Oh, I'm sitting on the stile, Mary, where we sat side by side,
On a bright May morning long ago when first you were my bride;
The corn was springing fresh and green and the lark sang loud and high,
And the red was on your lips, Mary, and the love was in your eye.

(4 additional stanzas)


Not the song by William Kennedy.

GEST Songs of Newfoundland and Labrador site is one of many sources for the author of the words; Museum of the City of New York site refers to sheet music source for tunesmith.

Killeagh County Down site: The village of Killyleagh grew up around a fortified tower, built in the 12th century by a Norman knight, John de Courcy....Lady Helen Dufferin wrote the famous poem "The Lament of the Irish Emigrant" in the castle, It is still possible to visit Mary's Stile in the shadows of the Castle today.

Murray, Mu23-y1:068, "Parody on the Irish Emigrant," James Lindsay (Glasgow), 19C (the singer stays in Ireland, glad his wife has died)

Bodleian, Firth b.26(206), "Answer to the Irish Emigrant" ("I'm coming back to you, Mary, Australia's shores I find"), A. Ryle and Co. (London), 1845-1859; also Harding B 11(88), "Answer to the Irish Emigrant" (the singer returns from Australia)

LOCSinging, as107460, "Lament of the Irish Gold Hunter," J. Andrews (New York), 1853-1859; also as107450, "Lament of the Irish Gold Hunter!!" (Tune: "I'm Sitting on the Stile, Mary"; the singer is digging for gold but expects to return to Ireland, if he survives "sitting on the stile, Mary, Away up in the mines")

LOCSinging, hc00011a, "Paddy's Lament" ("I'm sitthin on de sthile, Molly, wid a grape shot in my leg"), Charles Magnus (New York), 1864 (Tune: "I'm sitting on the stile &c."; attributed to John Ross Dix; the singer is fighting in America for the Union but hopes to return "when peace returns once more."

Broadside LOCSinging as107440 and LOCSinging as107460: J. Andrews dating per _Studying Nineteenth-Century Popular Song_ by Paul Charosh in American Music, Winter 1997, Vol 15.4, Table 1, available at FindArticles site. - BS

There is some question about who wrote the music to this. Amsco's uncredited book _The Library of Irish Music_ lists the tune as by G. Barker. But many of its attributions are inaccurate. - RBW

Same tune



  1. Peacock, pp. 462-464, "I'm Sitting on the Stile, Mary" (1 text, 2 tunes)
  2. O'Conor, p. 156, "The Irish Emigrant" (1 text)
  3. Dean, p. 81, "The Lament of the Irish Emigrant" (1 text)
  4. BrownII 133, "I Was Sitting on a Stile" (1 fragment, which the editors apparently regard as a part of this song -- though with only four lines, it's almost unfileable)
  5. ADDITIONAL: Edward Hayes, The Ballads of Ireland (Boston, 1859), Vol I, pp. 302-303, "The Lament of the Irish Emigrant"
  6. ST Pea462 (Partial)
  7. Roud #2661
  8. BI, Pea462