The Parting Glass

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"The Parting Glass" is a Scottish traditional song, often sung at the end of a gathering of friends. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] It has also long been sung in Ireland, enjoying considerable popularity to this day and strongly influencing the style in which it is often now sung. [3] [4] It was purportedly the most popular parting song sung in Scotland before Robert Burns wrote "Auld Lang Syne". [1] [6]




Scottish silver stirrup cups, Hallmarked Edinburgh, 1917 Scottish Stirrup Cups.jpg
Scottish silver stirrup cups, Hallmarked Edinburgh, 1917

The "parting glass", or "stirrup cup", was the final hospitality offered to a departing guest. Once they had mounted, they were presented one final drink to fortify them for their travels. The custom was practised in several continental countries. [7]


The earliest known printed version was as a broadside in the 1770s and it first appeared in book form in Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs, Heroic Ballads, etc. by Herd. [1] An early version is sometimes attributed to Sir Alex Boswell. The text is doubtless older than its 1770 appearance in broadside, as it was recorded in the Skene Manuscript, a collection of Scottish airs written at various dates between 1615 and 1635. [8] It was known at least as early as 1605, when a portion of the first stanza was written in a farewell letter, as a poem now known as "Armstrong's Goodnight", by one of the Border Reivers executed that year for the murder in 1600 of Sir John Carmichael, Warden of the Scottish West March. [9]

Exact lyrics vary between arrangements, but they include most, if not all, of the following stanzas appearing in different orders:[ citation needed ] [10] [11]

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

So fill to me the parting glass
And drink a health whate’er befall,
And gently rise and softly call
Good night and joy be to you all

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

If I had money enough to spend
And leisure time to sit awhile
There is a fair maid in this town
That sorely has my heart beguiled.
Her rosy cheeks and ruby lips
I own she has my heart in thrall
Then fill to me the parting glass
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 ought to be
By a time to rise and a time to fall
Come fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all
Good night and joy be with you all

(The final verse is the first verse in the Scots version.)


The earliest known appearance of the tune today associated with this text is as a fiddle tune called "The Peacock", included in James Aird's A Selection of Scots, English, Irish and Foreign Airs in 1782. [12] [13] [14]

Robert Burns referred to the air in 1786 as "Good night, and joy be wi' ye a'." when using it to accompany his Masonic lyric "The Farewell. To the brethren of St. James's Lodge, Tarbolton". [15] [16]

In 1800–1802, the song was incorrectly attributed to Joseph Haydn by Sigismund von Neukomm (1778-1858), who entered it in the Hoboken catalogue as "Good night and joy be wi' ye. Hob XXXIa 254. Mi mineur", [17] which text has been wrongly attributed to Sir Alexander Boswell (1775-1822).

Patrick Weston Joyce, in his Old Irish Folk Music and Songs (1909), gives the tune with a different text under the name "Sweet Cootehill Town," noting, "The air seems to have been used indeed as a general farewell tune, so that—from the words of another song of the same class—it is often called 'Good night and joy be with you all.'" [18] The celebrated Irish folk song collector Colm Ó Lochlainn has taken note of this identity of melodies between "The Parting Glass" and "Sweet Cootehill Town". [19] "Sweet Cootehill Town" is another traditional farewell song, this time involving a man leaving Ireland to go to America.

The tune appeared, with sacred lyrics, in 19th century American tunebooks. "Shouting Hymn" in Jeremiah Ingalls's Christian Harmony (1805) is a related tune. [20] The tune achieved wider currency among shape note singers with its publication, associated with a text first known in the 1814 Collection of Hymns and Spiritual Songs, "Come Now Ye Lovely Social Band", in William Walker's Southern Harmony (1835), and in The Sacred Harp (1844). [21] [22] This form of the song is still widely sung by Sacred Harp singers under the title "Clamanda".

Irish and North American influence

Dr Lori Watson, a lecturer in Scottish Ethnology at the University of Edinburgh states that it’s difficult to fully trace the origins of many traditional songs: [4]

Although it currently seems that Scotland has evidence of the earliest published melody and several beautiful song variants, the popular Parting Glass currently in circulation has strong Irish and North American influences to thank.

In regard to a modern version by Irish musician Hozier, Scottish singer-songwriter Karine Polwart notes: [4]

It really knocked my socks off. He clearly comes from a place where he understands his roots, singing in that really old ornamented Irish style. This would be one mark against the Scots claiming it, the tune of it is very like a lot of Irish traditional tunes and the way they sing it is with much more flourish and ornamentation, becoming a fluttering kind of melody. I find that really moving – my favourite versions are almost all by Irish singers.

Modern adaptations

"The Parting Glass" was re-introduced to mid-20th century audiences by the recordings and performances of The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. [23] Their rendition featured a solo vocal by youngest brother Liam and first appeared on their 1959 Tradition Records LP Come Fill Your Glass with Us as well as on a number of subsequent recordings, including the group's high-charting live performance album, In Person at Carnegie Hall . [24] The rendition by the Clancys and Makem has been described as "by all accounts... the most influential" of the many recorded versions. [13]

The song "Restless Farewell", written by Bob Dylan and featured on The Times They Are a-Changin' from 1964, uses the melody of the nineteenth century versions of "The Parting Glass" with Dylan's original lyrics. Dylan had learned the tune from the singing of the Clancys and Makem. [13]

In 1998, the traditional words were set to a new, different melody (reminiscent of Mo Ghile Mear, another Irish traditional song) by Irish composer Shaun Davey. In 2002, he orchestrated this version for orchestra, choir, pipes, fiddle, and percussion to commemorate the opening of the Helix Concert Hall, Dublin, Ireland. His version appears in the film Waking Ned Devine.

Film, TV and other media appearances

The song features prominently at the end of the movie Waking Ned Devine when friends of the deceased title character share a toast to him after his death.

Actor Pierce Brosnan performed a version of this song in the 2002 movie Evelyn .

Actresses Emily Kinney and Lauren Cohan performed a rendition of this song in the season three premiere episode "Seed" of The Walking Dead. It also appears on the soundtrack, The Walking Dead: Original Soundtrack – Vol. 1 .

It was sung by Anne Bonny (played by Sarah Greene) at the ending of the video game Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag .

It was sung by The Wailin' Jennys in the film Wildlike .

It was sung in the TV series Cranford by Joe McFadden in 2007.

At the request of Margaret Atwood, to end her guest-edited edition of BBC Radio 4's Today programme with the song, a version by singer Karine Polwart and pianist Dave Milligan was commissioned. [5]

Notable recordings

1959 The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem Come Fill Your Glass with Us
1968 The Dubliners Drinkin' and Courtin'
1998 Liam O'Maonlai and The Voice SquadRecording with an original melody by Shaun Davey for the closing titles of the movie Waking Ned Devine
2004 The Wailin' Jennys 40 Days A cappella
2012 Emily Kinney and Lauren Cohan The Walking Dead: Original Soundtrack – Vol. 1 Recorded for The Walking Dead Season 3, Episode 1 [25]
2013 Sarah Greene Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag Sung by Anne Bonny (played by Sarah Greene) during the game's end credits. [26]
2020 Hozier The Parting Glass (Live from the Late Late Show) - SinglePerformed and recorded on the Late Late Show in honour of those who died from COVID-19 in March 2020, with proceeds going to ISPCC. [27]

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