The Isle of France
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

This ballad is also known as Shamrock Green, the Convict Song. It was printed in England on numerous broadsides in the donotuse-1800s. Copies of many of these can be found at the Bodleian Library. This version was collected by W. Percy Merrick in Sussex and published in 1912. The ballad was also collected in 1893 in New South Wales.

Isle of France refers to the Mauritius. Originally named Isle of France, Britian conquered Isle of France in 1810 and it was ceded to Britain in 1814 when Napoleon was defeated. It was later renamed Mauritius. The ballad appears to date from before the change of name. However, the use of Queen instead of King would indicate it is dated after 1837.

Other authorities have wrongly placed the Isle of France in the Channel Islands.

The sun was fair and the clouds advanced,
When a convict came to the Isle of France;
Around his leg he wore a ring and chain,
And his country was of the Shamrock Green

I am of the Shamrock' the convict cried,
That has been tossed on the ocean wide;
For being unruly, I do declare,
I was doomed a transport for seven long years -

When six of them they were past and gone,
I was coming home for to make up one,
When the stormy winds they did blow and roar,
Which cast me here on this foreign shore.

Then the coastguard played a noble part,
And with some brandy cheered the convict's heart.
Although the night is so far advanced,
You shall find a friend in the Isle of France.

Then a speedy letter went to the Queen,
About the dreadful shipwreck of the Shamrock Green
His freedom came by a speedy post
To the absent convict they thought was lost.

God bless the coastguard, the convict cried,
You have saved my life from the ocean wide;
I'll drink your health in a flowing glass,
So here's success to the Isle of France.

Related Links
From English County Songs
See Bibliography for full information.
Also from two forum threads at Digital Tradition and
Steve Roud's Broadside Ballad Index