Isle of hope, isle of fears

June 10, 2010

I’ll tell you about the Irish House Party and its great Irish musicians later, but before we turn in for the night I want to leave you with this.

One of the women musicians tonight sang this song, about the first person to arrive at Ellis Island back just before the turn of the century. She was an Irish girl, only 15 years old. Here’s Celtic Woman’s version of the song, but to tell you the truth, the plaintive voice of the woman who did it so beautifully tonight, live, was much more moving.

When I visited Ellis Island years ago I could see my grandparents coming over from Sicily to a strange new world. They had no money, no education, no English. They had no idea what they would find. I thought especially of my grandmother, coming over all by herself with two babes in arms.

They were all so courageous, our immigrant ancestors.

Tonight, hearing this sung so movingly, I was so glad I had Kleenex in my bag. Here’s the song, and the lyrics below. Good night.

ISLE OF HOPE, ISLE OF TEARS

(Brendan Graham)

On the first day on January,
Eighteen ninety-two,
They opened Ellis Island and they let
The people through.
And the first to cross the treshold
Of that isle of hope and tears,
Was Annie Moore from Ireland
Who was all of fifteen years.

CHORUS:

Isle of hope, isle of tears,
Isle of freedom, isle of fears,
But it’s not the isle you left behind.
That isle of hunger, isle of pain,
Isle you’ll never see again
But the isle of home is always on your mind.

In a little bag she carried
All her past and history,
And her dreams for the future
In the land of liberty.
And courage is the passport
When your old world disappears
But there’s no future in the past
When you’re fifteen years

Chorus

When they closed down Ellis Island
In nineteen fourty-three,
Seventeen million people
Had come there for sanctuary.
And in Springtime when I came here
And I stepped onto it’s piers,
I thought of how it must have been
When you’re fifteen years.

Chorus

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