land of light

tannahill weavers
The American Stranger
Traditional, arranged by the Tannahill Weavers
All the songs of immigration that we had previously heard had been written by those people who had settled in America. Here is one that was written by someone who went the other way, west to east. This version, curiously enough, was collected in the heart of Burns' country, one of the epicentres of Scottish song and verse. Although the song was written by someone with obvious American connections, it is now firmly embedded in the Scottish tradition. From a historian's point of view it is very interesting in that it is one of only two recorded instances of a settler of Scottish extraction making the return trip. The other was a young lady who was so determined to return to the land of her forefathers that she walked from Chicago to the East Coast. On arrival in New York, however, she discovered herself to be penniless. Such was her courage that, rather than give up, she decided to offer her favors in exchange for a share of some sailor's berth across the Atlantic. As you can no doubt imagine, the offer was one that no sailor worth his salt (no pun intended) could refuse. Unfortunately, after three days at sea, she was discovered by the captain of the vessel who informed her that she was, in fact, aboard the Staten Island Ferry.


I'm a stranger to this country, from America I came
There's no one here that kens me nor yet can tell my name
I came o'er tae this country tae wander for a while
Far frae my bonnie dearie, aye monie's the weary mile

Some say that I am rakish, some say that I am wild
Some say that I am guilty the lassies tae beguile
But I will prove them lying folk gin ye'll come alang wi' me
And be my leesome lassie on the plains o' Americay

Gie my regards tae Nancy wha bides on yonder hill
And likewise unto Betsy, she's a lass I like fu' well
But gie my love tae Maggie, for she's my heart's delight
I'd row her in my erms through a year lang winter's night

The ship that's on the saut saut sea maun sail without her sails
The wee wee fishies grow until they turn to muckle whales
In the middle o' the ocean maun grow a rowan tree
Afore that I prove false tae her that's gi'en her love tae me

So send me word my darlin' and westward I will sail
On a packet out of Leith my dear on a brisk and a pleasant gale
And when that I am landed, you'll plight your troth tae me
And we'll dance and sing thegether on the plains o' Americay



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