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.

Beyond Ailsa Craig

Beyond Ailsa Craig


Towards the Clyde we sailed,

away beyond Ailsa Craig.


It was far from the sea where I was born,

no fog horns sounded warnings through our nights,

the only seagulls seen blown in on storms.

It was far from the sea where I was born.

To catch sight of waves we first caught a train,

the station so close, at our gardens’ end,

engine’s rumbling rhythms rocked me to sleep,

always a long journey to see the sea.


I remember a time when whistles blew,

doors slammed on the train, green flag raised,

gathering speed we passed our neighbours,

farewell hankies raised like white flags flew.


Bobbing in their wake I followed parents

finding their way through busy Dublin streets.

From station to dockside they steered us,

gently guiding our uncertain young feet.


There by the quays the ship waited for us.

From way up on deck I watched cattle

bellowing their way to the lowest hold.

Porters shouted, customs men in white caps

chalked with ease white marks on old cases.

Ship’s horns sounding we left to sail the night.

No more can you journey that way today,

no boats leave North Wall, Glasgow City bound.




Towards the Clyde we sailed,

away beyond Ailsa Craig.


Eastward down the Liffey firstly heading,

turning East by North where Howth Head nodded,

passing Ireland’s Eye she winked at us.

“You’re not thinking of staying on here, then,”

beamed the bright lighthouse at the Bailey.


Tired, but young, I was soothed by this

traveling on the sea.  Ship’s engines throbbed,

hummed, rocked us to sleep while moonlit

waters sprayed silver waves from our bow.

By night we sailed by the Isle of Man

through narrow seas dividing County Down

from dark lands in Galloway and Dumfries.


Then in the morning brightness someone said

“Paddy’s milestone,” looking at a great rock,

encrusted with white birds, rising higher

towards the heavens from the rolling sea.

Easterly of that was then our onward course,

on our starboard bow, the Mull of Kintyre.


Into the Clyde we sailed

after passing Ailsa Craig.


Years later I still recall that second day,

devouring eyes took in everything,

waves sliding past, tall purple mountains,

first so distant, then coming ever near.





Northwards we went, the waters narrowed.

Eastward then, sailing by Greenock’s forests

of great cranes, where other ships lay docked

as we glided by one more mighty rock,

Dumbarton’s ancient castle, seat of Kings,

brooding still o’er sea roads from Clydeside shores.


The waterway narrowed in so much

that children my own age, smiled, waved,

to the passing ships.  Smiling in return,

from our deck I too waved in answer,

feeling not lost, but warmly welcomed.


Along the Clyde we sailed,

Now so far from Ailsa Craig.


Then came the last few miles.  Rust coloured

hulls lay stern to the water where great ships

being built, cocooned in scaffolding

webs of steel lay lined along our way.


Somewhere there we berthed.  Leaving the ship,

we travelled on, not long now, at last then,

at journey’s final end our Granny’s arms

reached out.  There were hugs, there were salt tears,

there were kisses along with loving words,

“och, ma wee bairns!  Ma own wee bonny bairns!”


It was long we had sailed,

long, long, past great Ailsa Craig.


copyright Kevin Connelly 2012

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