Patrick Russell
Tom Russell Lyrics


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My name is Patrick Russell, I've led a Christian life
I sit here in New Hampton, the year is 1910
Looking back from Iowa towards Mother Ireland.
I was born in Templemore in 1825
Recalled a happy boyhood until my mother died
Starvation crept across the land, America's our dream
Six cruel weeks on stormy seas aboard the ship Tyrene.
American primitive man, in an American primitive land
I washed my face in a frying pan, American primitive man.
At last we docked in old Quebec, the English offered farm and ground
But we'd lived too long under English rule, to United States we're bound
By train and then by cattle boat, aw the filth down in that hold
We landed in Milwalkee, trekked 200 miles or more
A sack of new potatoes was carried by each man
Four spades for cultivation we'd brought from Ireland
We worked at splitting railroad ties, bought one old milking cow
A quarter section uncleared land, two oxen and a plough
At night we heard the wolves howl on our newly purchased farm
And starving lads from the civil war took shelter in our barn.
The Larsens and the Cooneys, the Russells the Molloys
We tilled the soil of Iowa and grew a spate of girls and boys.
American primitive man, in an American primitive land




A whiskey still in an oatmeal can, American primitive man
I'm an American primitive man.

Overall Meaning

In Tom Russell's song "Patrick Russell", we hear the story of a man reflecting on his life as an Irish immigrant in America. Patrick Russell tells us that he was born in Templemore Ireland in 1825 and had a happy childhood until his mother died. He then speaks of the famine that hit Ireland and how it forced him to flee his homeland to America. He sailed on a ship called Tyrene that took six weeks through stormy seas to reach their destination.


Upon arriving in America, Patrick and his fellow immigrants were faced with the harsh reality of starting a new life. They stripped down to basics and lived like primitive men, washing their faces with frying pans and carrying sacks of potatoes. The journey brought them to Milwalkee where they purchased uncleared land and began building their new lives. They faced many struggles but over time, they tilled the soil and grew families.


The song captures the story of one man but tells the tale of countless others who faced the same struggles in pursuit of the American dream. It's a beautiful and heartfelt tribute to the bravery of those who fled their homeland to start anew.


Line by Line Meaning

My name is Patrick Russell, I've led a Christian life
Introduction of Patrick Russell and his religious background


I sit here in New Hampton, the year is 1910
Setting the scene - location and time


Looking back from Iowa towards Mother Ireland.
Reflecting on homeland while residing in Iowa, USA


I was born in Templemore in 1825
Patrick's birthplace and year of birth


Recalled a happy boyhood until my mother died
Patrick's happy childhood and the loss of his mother


Starvation crept across the land, America's our dream
Desperate times in Ireland led to the dream of moving to America


Six cruel weeks on stormy seas aboard the ship Tyrene.
The difficult journey from Ireland to America via the ship Tyrene


American primitive man, in an American primitive land
The settling of America from a primitive perspective


I washed my face in a frying pan, American primitive man.
The crude way of life as an early settler


At last we docked in old Quebec, the English offered farm and ground
Arrival in Quebec and the offer of land by the English


But we'd lived too long under English rule, to United States we're bound
The desire to move away from English rule led to the choice of the USA


By train and then by cattle boat, aw the filth down in that hold
The unpleasant journey to the USA on a train and cattle boat


We landed in Milwalkee, trekked 200 miles or more
Arrival in Milwaukee and a long journey to their final destination


A sack of new potatoes was carried by each man
The limited supplies they had upon arrival


Four spades for cultivation we'd brought from Ireland
The tools they brought with them from Ireland to use on their new land


We worked at splitting railroad ties, bought one old milking cow
The hard work they did to start building their new life


A quarter section uncleared land, two oxen and a plough
The land and animals they acquired to start farming and cultivating the land


At night we heard the wolves howl on our newly purchased farm
The dangers and challenges of living in a new and wild environment


And starving lads from the civil war took shelter in our barn.
The help they offered to people affected by the Civil War, despite their own struggles


The Larsens and the Cooneys, the Russells the Molloys
The different families that came together to form a community in Iowa


We tilled the soil of Iowa and grew a spate of girls and boys.
Their hard work and success in building a life and family in Iowa


A whiskey still in an oatmeal can, American primitive man
The ingenuity and resourcefulness of early settlers, even with limited resources


I'm an American primitive man.
Patrick's identification with the primitive way of life in early America




Contributed by Hailey N. Suggest a correction in the comments below.
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