Song Lyric Sunday — “The Parting Glass”

Is the glass half-empty or half-full? Helen Vahdati’s musing on that suject resulted in this week’s Song Lyric Sunday theme:  Glass. The glass I’ve chosen to write about is neither, as the full glass is drained for a toast.

“The Parting Glass”  is a bittersweet farewell to close friends. Having its roots in Scotland, it’s considered to be traditional in both Ireland and Scotland.  The lyrics in some form existed in the early 1600s, attributed by Sir Walter Scott to a man who was hanged after penning his farewell, now called “Armstrong’s Goodnight.”   Today’s lyrics were first seen on a handbill in the 1770s. As with other traditional songs, the music was also used for other songs, and was first published in Glasgow in 1782 as a fiddle tune called “The Peacock.” The song was popularlized in the 20th century by Irish recordings by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem and by The Dubliners.

My favorite version of “The Parting Glass” could be considered a poignant farewell from the singer. George Donaldson was one of the original members of, and the only Scot in, Celtic Thunder, a singing group formed in Dublin in 2007. At 39 and the only married member, George was “the old man” to the others who ranged in age from 14 to 30. Well-beloved by cast, crew, and fans, he passed away unexpectedly at 46 from a massive heart attack in March 2014.

Released on his second solo album, “The Parting Glass” video was filmed and released a mere five months before his passing. I’d say “enjoy,” but I truly can’t hear and watch him sing this without choking up.


The Parting Glass

Of all the money e’er I had
I’ve spent it in good company
And all the harm e’er I’ve done
Alas it was to none but me
And all I’ve done for want of wit
To memory now I can’t recall
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all

Of all the comrades e’er I had
They are sorry for my going away
And all the sweethearts that e’er I had
They would wish me one more day to stay
But since it falls unto my lot
That I should rise and you should not
I’ll gently rise and I’ll softly call
Good night and joy be with you all

A man may drink and not be drunk
A man may fight and not be slain
A man may court a pretty girl
And perhaps be welcomed back again
But since it has so ordered been
By a time to rise and a time to fall
Come fill to me the parting glass
Goodnight and joy be with you all
Goodnight and joy be with you all

*edited to add links to The Clancy Brothers and The Dubliners versions


15 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday — “The Parting Glass”

  1. Beautiful! That cello really gets you in the heart, doesn’t it? At least it does for me. Thank you so much for sharing not only the story of the song, but the story of George Donaldson.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You’re welcome! Glad you enjoyed it. The sparse musical accompaniment really gets me to focus on the lyrics and the singing. What really gets me is the last 30 seconds or so when he’s singing directly into the camera. Tears me up every time!


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