I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen

Thomas P. Westendorf, 1875

What is happening in this song? Where do you think "home" was for Kathleen? Why did she want to go back again?

How was Kathleen feeling? What phrases suggest how she felt? What kinds of things might have happened to make her "voice so sad" or to create a "dark'ning shadow on her brow"?

What were some of the reasons people immigrated to the United States? After making the long trip and settling here, what might make someone want to go back?

What might different people during this era miss about the past? What groups might have been particularly nostalgic?

Do you think Kathleen or any of these other groups would find what they were looking for by going back home? Why or why not?


"I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen" performed by Josef Locke. Available on iTunes and YouTube.

Josef Locke (1917–99) was the stage name of Irish tenor Joseph McLaghlin, who was popular in the 1940s and 50s.

View the lyrics for "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen."

View the published score.

Thomas Westendorf (1848–1923) was a teacher in an Indiana reform school and an amateur composer and musician. Although he realized a small monthly income from this incredibly popular song, which was even sung at Thomas Edison's funeral, he continued to make his living by teaching in reform schools. In this era publishers were not obligated to pay royalties, and the small monthly income Westendorf received was only through the gratitude of the publisher.

cover for "Barney Take Me Home Again"
"Barney Take Me Home Again!" 1875, Lester Levy Sheet Music Collection, John Hopkins University.

"I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen" was not composed for his wife, as has been incorrectly noted in some histories, but was an answer song to "Barney, Take Me Home Again," a song by the popular composer George W. Persley (whose real name was George W. Brown). Although he was quite a prolific composer and many of his songs were published, this was the only song by Westendorf that achieved a significant amount of popularity. This song continues to be performed as a melancholy portrayal of the Irish immigrant's (represented by the name Kathleen) desire to return home.

Write an end to the story of Kathleen: If she does go back home, what does she find and how does she feel about it —was it worth it? If she doesn't get to go back home, why not and what were her reasons for being so sad? What did she think would be better at home?

rill: Small stream.

main: Ocean.