‘The Isle of France’ was collected by H.E.D. Hammond from Joseph Elliott of Todber, Dorset. It concerns a transported convict who is on his way home at the end of his sentence, but is shipwrecked on the island of Mauritius. l’Île de France was the name given to Mauritius until it passed from French to British control in 1810.
I discovered the song while looking for something else in the Hammond MSS, which at the time were available only on microfilm at the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, but which are now of course included in the Full English archive.
Joseph Elliott had a number of songs with not-the-usual tune, which it seems he picked up during his time in Canada:
In about 1850, when he was around 19 years old, he signed on as a fisherman in the Newfoundland cod fishing industry, sailing out from Dartmouth with about 60 other men (mainly men from Dorset). He was out there for 3 or 4 years, and told the Hammond brothers that that was where he learned his songs.
(thanks to John Shaw via the Musical Traditions site for this information)
The song appeared frequently on ballad sheets – check out these versions at Ballads Online.
The Isle of France
Andy Turner – vocal, C/G anglo-concertina
Ian Giles – vocal
Jon Fletcher – guitar
Sophie Thurman – cello
Mat Green – fiddle
Recorded at the Red Lion Folk Club, Birmingham, 6th March 2013.