Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Arranmore... a new song

On Novemeber 9, 1935 a boat went down on the way to Arranmore. We used to speak about this event often in the west of Ireland, it was one of those things that came up again and again as boatmen spoke at night... Lately, for some reason, I am often thinking about the west of Ireland, of little villages, the flow and soothing sounds of conversation in Gaelic, the smell of the sea beyond the pub door... the feel of being alive, down below deck, drinking tea and speaking of all that ever was in the ocean around you, the history and the people, and I have found myself often thinking about drowning. I was there once before, under the cold salt water... and the memory has been present with me for some time now...

Well, this song came to me yesterday on a train... wrote it down and hoped no one would notice me weeping.

Arranmore Boat Disaster
words by Lorcan Otway (all rights reserved)
Tune traditional

My senses are filled with the smell of the ocean
The boat is alive with the dance of the water
With heart pounding worry at the dark night crossing
coming back home to Arranmore Island

I'm clutching my wee bag all wrapped up in oilskin
spray wets my face as we slide down the face
of black ocean swells leaving Burtonport harbour
coming back home to Arranmore Island

I'm shoulder to shoulder with all of the others
just in my teens and returning from Scotland
from hoking the tatties for miserable wages
coming back home to Arranmore Island

Out on the black night between sea and the stars
the sail fills with wind and we scud o're the water
happy to see the lights of the cabins
coming back home to Arranmore Island.

A squall hits our boat with sharp gusts and hail
we're sure of our boat but scared of the ocean
the boat rolls and rights with half of us drowned
coming back home to Arranmore Island

Hanna cries out as the sail pulls us over,
we're dragged over rocks then under the water
I'm dreaming of home and warm glowing hearthside
coming back home to Arranmore Island

We watch by the hearthside as our parents are keening
torn by the tears of sisters and brothers
as we whisper our grief on the wind from the water
coming back home to Arranmore Island.

I found this site about the Arranmore Boat disaster while checking my memory after writing the song...

“We had one bottle of stout on the mainland. Bhí bagáiste leo agus presents so the boat was full. It was dark as we left the port for home about 5.30 in the evening, there was no lights on perches in them days. The seamen would take their markers from lights on Inis Caorach and on Arranmore. Bhí an ghaoth linn.... a heavy hail shower came..... it was very dark..... bhuail muid carraig and she capsized, when she righted herself there was 9 on her. But she went again d'imigh sí arís. She was rolling through the rocks you see and the sail was taking her over. My brother Mickey pulled me out of the water back on the boat fear mór láidir a bhí ann. Ach d'imigh sí arís. This time I was the only one who got back on her, chonaic mé m'athair d'átháin mé a blagaid. I could do nothing for him I tried to pull him up on the overturned boat ach níor thug sé cuidiú ar bith dom he was dead. I pulled up Johnny my brother. Thosaigh Johnny ag caoineadh agus ag caint faoin ár mháthair.”

Edward Gallagher (61) their father.
Mickey (29) their brother.
Madgie (28) their sister.
Eddie (24) their brother.
Charlie (20) their brother.
Hannah (16) their sister.
John Gallagher (20) their 1st cousin.
Donal Gallagher (27)
Hannah (21)
Manus (17)
Tony Gallagher (17)
Ned (15)
Katie O Donnell (45)
Paddy (44)
Peter Leonard (61)
Seán O Donnell (50)
Eamonn Ward (51


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