Yellow meal


As I walked one morning down by the Sligo dock
I overheard an Irishman conversing with Tapscott
‘Good-morning, Mr. Tapscott, would you be after telling to me
Have you ever a ship bound for New York in the State of Amerikee ?’

‘Oh, yes, my pretty Irish boy, I have a ship or two
They’re laying at the wharf there, waiting for a crew
They are New York packets, and on Friday they will sail
At present she is taking in one thousand bags of meal’

Straightway then I started, ’twas on the yellow-grog road
Such roars of mille-murder oh, the like was never known
And there I paid my passage down in solid Irish gold
It’s often times that I sat down and wished myself at home

The very day we started, ’twas on the first of May
The captain, he came upon the deck, these words to us did say
‘Cheer up, my hearty Irish blades, don’t let your courage fail
To-day I’ll serve you pork and beans, to-morrow yellow meal’

One day as we were sailing in the channel of St. James
A northwest wind came up to us and drove us back again
Bad luck to the ‘Josh A Walker’ and the day that she set sail
Likewise to Captain Tapscott and his dirty yellow meal

And then I went to Liverpool, walking thro’ the street
Not a penny in my pocket, not a mouthful for to eat
Bad luck to the ‘Josh A Walker’ and the day that she set sail
For the dirty sailors broke open my chest and stole my yellow meal

But now I’m in America and working upon the canal
To cross the stream in one of these boats, I know I never shall
But I’ll cross it in a great big ship that carries both meat and sail
Where I’ll get lashings of corned meat, and none of your yellow meal


A once popular music-hall song in which the writer mistakes the Irish pronunciation of ‘mail’ for meal. Had he been a more experienced traveller, he would have known a ‘packet’ ship carried mail and not ‘meal’.

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Song Themes

Songs of the sea