I’ll take you home again, Kathleen, but where?
The popular song “I’ll take you home again Kathleen” was written in 1876 and immortalized by singers Count John McCormack and Joseph Locke. It is a song of longing for the land from which the writer and his wife came. The reference to “Across the Ocean Wide and Wild” and “Where the fields are fresh and green” both have generally been taken to mean the Old Country, the beloved original home of so many Irish immigrants to the United States of America.
But this is not necessarily the case.
The lyrics certainly point to Ireland as the “home” of the song, but not the composer’s forebears. Thomas P. Westendorf was born in Virginia. Certainly many people of Irish descent were born on the east coast of the US, but they would not carry the name Westendorf, which points to a more Germanic origin.
Also, the song was written not in Virginia, but in Plainfield, Illinois, for his wife, whose name wasn’t even Kathleen, but Jenny, while visiting her hometown of Ogdensburg, New York. So maybe the “home” in question isn’t the Emerald Isle at all, but the equally green fields of New York State. And what about the “wide and wild ocean”. A little harder to explain, but it probably refers to the prairies, which at the time were still as dangerous and forbidding as any ocean.
By this time the new “Oregon Trail” to the west coast was very well established. In the early days, pioneers found that the standard wagon, based on the sturdy Conestoga design favored by other pioneers, was too large and heavy to cross the Rockies, killing even the strongest ox teams long before the journey was over. So a lighter version was developed by Studebaker Brothers and called “Prairie Schooners”.
By 1876, therefore, the concept of schooners—and therefore the prairie akin to a vast ocean—was firmly in the national lexicon, so it would be natural for Westendorf to include references to a still largely untamed wild and wide ocean in his song , without considering the Atlantic Ocean, beyond which lay a country of which he had scanty knowledge.
#Ill #home #Kathleen