Emigration has been a constant source of heartbreak for the Irish people for hundreds of years. The songs listed hear capture the poignancy of having to leave one's country of birth in order to make a living.
Irish emigrants and their descendants worldwide are said to number more than 100 million people. They reside today in significant numbers in Great Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, Mexico, South Africa, Brazil, the Caribbean and continental Europe. In the early 1800s, religious discrimination, increasing rents and evictions stimulated emigration. Following the Great Famine of the 1840s, emigration became a massive and relentless flow. By 1890, two of every five Irish-born people were living abroad.
While a minority of songs deal with the causes of emigration, and some more deal with its practical effects, the majority deal with nostalgia and emotional responses.