Dollar Bay, a ballad of the sea

The Ballad of Dollar Bay

(Air Traditional – Lord Franklin)

The Earl of Sandwich, a fine ship was she,

As strong as any sailed the salt sea.

But it was not winds or towering waves

that laid her low, but four sailors, cruel knaves.


It was November Seventeen Sixty Five,

Those butchering killers left none alive.

Captain and family in the ocean they threw,

Then followed passengers and honest crew.


McKinley, Quintin, Zickerman and Gidden,

Thought the ship would sink, their crimes be hidden.

With bags of gold and silver, jewels galore,

They took the longboat and rowed for shore.


There in the sand, Spanish dollars they buried,

To New Ross and a rich life they hurried,

But it wasn’t to be, the brave ship was found

Their crime discovered when she ran aground.


The cabin boy, they had left for dead,

Was still aboard when she hit rocks ahead,

  Clinging to life he was finally saved,

And told  of cruel murder he’d braved.


The robbers were soon in the taverns  of Ross,

On bar counters ‘twas gold coin they would toss.

 Where did that come from, the townspeople thought?

It wasn’t long before they were caught.


Then they were taken to that little bay

To show where the rest was hidden away

They gave up the treasure, ‘twas a great haul,

But some say they didn’t uncover it all.


For murder they were told they would die,

But never in graves would peacefully lie.

 As warning their bones in cages were seen

Rattling off Dublin, by Sandymount Green


That little bay where they dug in the sand

Is easy to find, it’s nearby at hand.

 So if it’s treasure and riches you seek,

Go down to Dollar Bay, and dig on that beach.

The Ballad of Dollar Bay

As promised, here are some images to accompany the next poem to be posted.  The old boat returning to nature is known locally as the Saltmills boat, her last voyage was to that stretch of the Wexford coast and now she slowly becomes part of the shingle, eventually to be some flotsam and jetsam, perhaps a few rusted bolts and nails among storm tossed seaweed, bleaching in the summer sun. I’ve been watching her slow decay for many years now. Leaning on the parapet of an old bridge, hundreds of years old, while musing upon the shifting sands of an estuary can be soothing, meditation in it’s way.

The rigging you can see is part of the mainmast of a Famine -era sailing ship, “The Dunbrody”, moored in New Ross.  The poem I will be uploading to accompany these pictures is about a ship from that era, “The Earl of Sandwich.” There is, to my eye, something stirring about the majestic sailing ships. It is to be heard in the lovely poem “Sea Fever” by John Masefield.

“I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky.

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;

And the wheels kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking

And  agree mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.”


More to follow!!!

In the beginning …

I promised with the return of the light and the fresh growth of Spring I too would create afresh.  As a teenager I ran across a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins on the subject of Spring.  Some lines have resonated with me as fresh as morning bird song ever since,

“Nothing is so beautiful  as Spring –

When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;

Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush

Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring

The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing; ”

So, inspired anew by the time of year I’m going to try a new approach and bring to you some preliminary inspirations underlying  a recent poem.  The next post will show some images related to the poem which will then follow.

But for now, the snowdrops I came across yesterday, February 12th and loved the way they display themselves in glorious clusters. Where did I meet them? In a place in Wexford, Ireland, by name of Aiséirí, a beautiful Irish word meaning re-birth.


Ranged across the fridge, the wanderings

of my inner Ulysses may be seen. 

Behold VW camper van of cherished dreams,

to bring us where crystal clear waters

fringe sunlit villages nestled between

warm seas and heat-hazed mountains.


Enamelled Pisa leans on shopping lists

beside a magnetic fishing boat

harbouring lottery tickets.

The Boston skyline cradles an old photo

while the Eiffel Tower, the Tower of London,

a Norwegian moose, and puffins from Orkney

hold reminders, phone numbers,

wi-fi password, and post codes.


The daily jumbled in with all the dreams,

reminding me that but one step outside

might lead to adventure on any day,

with my Penelope, who will return with

me to home and her peaceful crochet.

Years Hence a Small Boy asks about the Pandemic


Did the birds notice?

great flocks of birds were seen leaving cities in China

& elsewhere, there were no more crumbs from the cafes,

there were no more gleanings from the marketplace.

Did the air change as well?

the air was never as pure in all my life before,

we could see further and clearer than ever –

the lungs of the world healed as ours grew sick.

Did the wild animals notice?

goats came down from the hills in Wales,

kangaroos wandered streets in Australia,

dolphins swam free in the canals of Venice.

Did everything sound the same?

there was silence & there was noise –

planes, cars, trucks were never heard so seldom,

birdsong was never heard so loud, never so sweet

Did the people forget when it was over?

no, my child, in saddened hearts it never went away.





A Serenade for Spring

A Serenade for Spring


Were the colours ever so glorious as this Spring?

Bird song never seemed so loud, so fresh, so close.

The very heavens have cleared, the air is pure, again.


Again?  When were the skies ever so clear for so long?

Never in my memory.  Everywhere Nature explodes

in our very faces, assailing all our awakened senses.


By the roadsides the pale primrose proudly asserts

herself, free from all the fumes of passing traffic,

even the badger thrives, road kill abounds no more.


Down in the quiet harbour a cormorant fished

undisturbed, unseen but by ourselves and the gulls.

An old neighbour called out from her doorway,

“It’s like someone stole away all the people.”

Galloping Children

Galloping children

The ageing grey tenement released

it’s children on a fine day; bright, clear skies

and gentle breezes, one of those perfect days

in childhood, often recalled in fond

memories.  A white van pulled up and

my father and uncle, finished their

workday early for once, simply scooped

up all who played on the street, bundled

them in the back where they bounced around

happy in the mystery of where they

might land.  When their drive was done, released

once more, they looked around, wide eyed.

A stream rushed and tumbled over great

granite rocks while Scots pines soared so tall

and proud.  Specks of white fluff moved slowly

across the green heights of the hills above.

“They’re sheep,” my father explained before

turning to his brother, adding, “children

need a gallop every now and then.”


The sound of one hand skipping

The sound of one hand skipping

Out I went because I wanted to play

with a hop, skip, jump and a one, two, three,

they said half-an-hour is all I could stay

even when there’s no-one else, just me.

Johnny at his window looks sad today

he can’t come out because it’s my turn here.

Mary’s mother just shoo’ed me away,

think she was afraid I’d come too near.

Flapping his wings landed a big black crow

I asked out loud “would you like to play?”

He looked at me, and wouldn’t you know

he said nothing at all then flew away.

In the garden shed where they keep the tools

I found some old rope no-one else wanted,

They taught a rhyme before closing our schools

so, I skipped and out loud I chanted –

don’t forget coughs and sneezes spread diseases

always remember you cover your mouth,

don’t touch your face, sneeze into your elbow

all because coughs and sneezes spread diseases

and that’s how we’ll make this old virus go.

2020 vision, or they still lie to us


2020 vision, or they still lie to us

They always lie to us.

When they proclaim they are

telling the truth

they act as if this were

virtue on their part,

rather than a sacred duty.

They always lie to us.

The wars never end

by Christmas,

there were no weapons of

mass destruction


the faltering fail-safes

often fail to hold,

situations being always

worse than they proclaim.

They always lie to us.

Drip feeding us morsels,


tit bits of truth,

is also a form of lying.

They always lie to us,

so much so

that it is no longer

a source of sadness,


the sadness lies

in how often we


how seldom we


in our ever and always


not admitting that

they always lie to us.


What about the working man?




“What about the working man?”


His roaring filled the street.

We were children scurrying

past, herd safety in numbers,

safety in distance, across the street.


What about the working man?”

That was his challenge for every passerby,

arms flailing, old coat flapping, eyes blind

to everyone, to everything else but…


In the trenches, he was, never right since.

They say when drinking he sees

the faces of men he killed up close,

with a bayonet.


I heard that years later,

after he died, old age finally

granting him peace.  Back then,

he spread his fear and horror

while we were children scurrying

past, herd safety in numbers,

safety in distance, across the street,

not seeing in his eyes

the dead men he saw,

dying closer to him

than we could ever dare to be.


Note – this is about a real person who lived in the same Parish as myself in Kilkenny City.  It is also the last poem I shared with Denis Collins of Wexford before his untimely death in the last week.  He was preparing an exhibition on the theme of Work for  May Day.  Alas it was not be, this was to be one of my contributions.  On the Facebook page Kilkenny Down Memory Lane there were some posts recalling notable characters from days gone by, this poor soul was one of the people remembered. His battle cry remains as relevant as ever, “what about the working man?”

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