The Irish folk song "Mursheen Durkin" tells the story of an emigrant from Ireland who goes to mine for gold in California during the California Gold Rush, 1849.[1] The song is about emigration, although atypically optimistic for the genre. The name "Muirsheen" is a good phonetic approximation to the pronunciation of "Máirtín" (Martin) in Connacht Irish; it could alternatively be construed as a diminutive of "Muiris" (Maurice). A pratie is a potato, the historical staple crop of Ireland. "America" is pronounced "Americay", as was common among Gaelic peoples around Ireland.[2]

The air to which it is sung is "Cailíní deasa Mhuigheo" (pretty girls of Mayo), which is a popular reel dating from the 19th century.[3]


The song reached prominence when Johnny McEvoy's recording reached no. 1 in Ireland in 1966.[4]

It has been covered by the following artists (and others):


"Molly Durkin" is an Irish folk song made popular by Murty Rabbett in the 1940s in the United States. It is a derivation of "Mursheen Durkin".[5] The song has a lively tempo and a man who decides to give up his work as a mortar shoveler (probably an asphalt shoveler as well) to take up shoveling gold in California is whimsically described. The song is not so much a song of leaving Ireland as it is an Irishman's response to a woman's scorn.[6]

The Irish Rovers made several changes to the lyrics:



  1. ^ Sean McMahon, A Little Bit of Heaven
  2. ^ Jonathan Baron, "A Narrow Sea – Episode 59 – The Hamely Tongue",
  3. ^ Colm Ó Lochlainn, More Irish Street Ballads, Dublin, 1965. p. 72
  4. ^ "Johnny McEveoy". Arts. County Kildare Community Network. February 2014. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  5. ^ Folk Index
  6. ^ Lyrics from The American Songbook, by Jerry Silverman