Red is the Rose Lyrics

Red is the Rose lyrics tell the tale of a blossoming love that ends in sadness as the two lovers are separated. 

Most believe that the song is about one of the lovers emigrating apart from the other, a topic that inspires plenty of Irish songs and stories.

Things to Know About the Song

Here are some fun facts about Red is the Rose.  Hopefully they will entice you to sing along next time you hear it!

  • This classic Irish song is not originally Irish. It comes from a well-known Scottish song called The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond, which dates back to at least the 19th century. Red is the Rose lyrics express the Irish variation, and are sung to the same traditional melody.
  • The song become popular on a global scale thanks to Tommy Makem, who is sometimes known as the Godfather of Irish Music. Tommy Makem did record the song and perform it widely, but he is not the songwriter as some claim.
  • In fact, the earliest recording of Red is the Rose dates all the way back to 1934. The song was sung by Josephine Beirne and George Sweetman, cementing it in history as a traditional Irish folk song.
  • Many major artists have since recorded the song. Red is the Rose has been sung by The High Kings and The Chieftains, among many others. Famously, the Irish tenor Anthony Kearns also sang a recorded a version of the song at the John F. Kennedy Library in honor of JFK's mother, who was also named Rose.
  • Many modern versions of the song have an incomplete ending. Misheard "Read is the Rose" lyrics over time confuse the story. The original version reveals that the man doesn't miss his mother or his sister as much as his lover, who has left Ireland forever.

Red is the Rose Lyrics

Irish expressions is about having an Irish experience, on demand, wherever you happen to be.  What better way, than to sing along? 

To help you do just that, here are the Red is the Rose lyrics! 

Come over the hills, my bonnie Irish lass
Come over the hills to your darling
You choose the road, love, and I'll make the vow
And I'll be your true love forever.

Red is the rose that in yonder garden grows
Fair is the lily of the valley
Clear is the water that flows from the Boyne
But my love is fairer than any.

'Twas down by Killarney's green woods that we strayed
When the moon and the stars they were shining
The moon shone its rays on her locks of golden hair
And she swore she'd be my love forever.


It's not for the parting that my sister pains
It's not for the grief of my mother
'Tis all for the loss of my bonny Irish lass
That my heart is breaking forever.

Chorus (x2)

Songwriter:Tommy Makem

Melody Loch Loman R. Burns

Our Favorite Performance

Please enjoy this rich and engrossing performance by the Irish Tenors.

Another Version - Which Do You Like Better?

And here is a beautiful a capela version by the High Kings.

Want More Irish Song Lyrics?

It is probably obvious - at Irish Expressions, we love Irish songs!  The music of the Emerald Isle brings people together, telling stories that touch every human emotion.

Learning the lyrics and singing these songs gives us a deeper sense of connection with Ireland, wherever in the world we happen to be!

We have captured 10 of our favorite Irish songs in an e-book we call "An Illustrated Irish Songbook."

This fun, free guide is available to you to download.  Answer two quick questions below to get instant access!

What's Next?

Folk songs like this one are an essential part of Irish culture and heritage. Even if you're not really into folk music, these Irish melodies tell fascinating stories that take you back to special times in Ireland's long and proud history. 

Sing them, listen to them, dance to them, to celebrate Irish culture and share your personal Irish side!

For more information of this type, you may want to pay a visit to our main section on Irish Song Lyrics.

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Meanwhile, thanks for visiting! Now let's click on another topic above and continue expressing your Irish side at Irish

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At Irish Expressions we believe everybody – well almost everybody! - has an "Irish side."  So - how nice would it be to have access to a fun Irish experience, on demand, wherever you happen to be?

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Until then, best wishes -

Bruce Grady



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