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Far From Their Home (A Song of Grosse Isle)

[Across The Great Divide]

Words and Music by Brendan Nolan
French verse: Maureen Walsh-Nolan
Ould Segosha Music
Key of D, open D chords DAF#DAD

Over a million people left Ireland during the famine years. Many left one hell only to have it substituted for another. The island of Grosse Isle in the St. Laurence River near Quebec City was a quarantine station which saw it's resources stretched to the limit during the years 1846 to '47. I felt it was very important to include a French verse in the song to recognize and remember the French population who helped the Irish immigrants and those who took in Irish orphans from Grosse Isle. My wife Maureen wrote the verse.

Oh we left our homes and traveled
Though many not know where we lie
They said 'twas a land of promise
But few saw it with their own eyes
For it's here on this sad lonely island
Where the wind blows cold to the bone
We rest in its soil forgotten
Far away from our home.

On the 14th day of June
Our packet it set sail
Down the eastern coast we wound
Past Wexford and Kinsale
Till sadly the sunset faded
Gently from our eyes
And the lights of the Southwest flickered away
As we said our last goodbye.

Oh it's hard to describe the suffering
As this awful voyage began.
Two weeks out to sea, we had lost 10 or more
As the fever took the strongest of men
And the holds were battened for days on end
To stifle the sickness below
While the waters of the ocean swallowed our dead
Far away from their home.

Our spirits they were weary
As the great broad river began
And a whale rose up from the waters
As we sailed into this new land
With its hillsides that sloped toward the shoreline
And villages cradled within
We prayed these people could pity our plight
And find a new home for our kin.

Within sight of Grosse Isle
We were anchored far off shore
For many more ships lay waiting
And we'd stay maybe five days or more
For the lost ones outnumbered the living
And a terrible sight it was plain
As a packet floated out in the bay
With its human cargo aflame.

And the sheds overflowed with suffering
And their cries pierced the silence at night
And the brave ones who tended these travelers
Some paid with their lives in the fight
I've lost my own on this island
And my candle's near dying away
To have traveled so far on our journey
Humble voyagers together we'll stay.

Je m'appelle Léo Quinn
Mes ancêtres sont ici
Enterrés sur Grosse Isle
Qui fait face à ma ville Montmagny
Mes souvenirs ne sont que des fantômes
Qui survollent et dansent dans le vent
Ils demandent qu'on se souviens d'eux
Même si ce n'est qu'en chantant.

There are no boats tied in the river
And the cross stands gaunt on the hill
No wretched shadows trod from the shore
To the fever sheds now that lie still
Just the white markers guard their memory
No names carved in granite or stone
And the long grass waves to the wind as she blows
O'er these brave ones far from their home.

And the long grass waves to the wind as she blows
O'er these brave ones far from their home.

Translation of French Verse:

My name is Leo Quinn
My ancestors lie here
buried on Grosse Isle
Which faces my town of Montmagny
My memories are ghosts
Who swirl and dance in the wind
They ask that we remember them
Even if only in song