Duncannon, a stranger called

Duncannon, a stranger called.

We were happily pottering in our little

seaside garden. It was a fine Spring day.

Plants were placed, watering almost done,

proof against the drought,

when quite suddenly he was there.


He was not expected.  My wife was

the one who noticed him.  She asked,

“what do you make of that?”

At first I did not know what it was

she meant, but looking up from

my work I too saw him close at hand.

He was silent, it seemed he spoke

in ways we could not comprehend.

We were quiet then, as he was.

The only sounds heard were the hushed

murmurs of the little waves gently falling

on Duncannon’s nearby strand.

“We should offer him food,”she said,

then added, “and something

to drink, perhaps he’s thirsty.”

Food and water we placed before him

Keeping a wary eye on us he drank

with evident relish.  Still silence held,

no-one saying anything.  We

watched him as he watched us.

He wore some form of I.D. bracelet, but the

writing was too small, to us almost invisible.

When the water was gone the pigeon

flew away, our little visitor who seemed

to know that we would offer water to

a stranger, even in a drought.

Duncannon Beach, evening time

Duncannon Beach, evening time

The light by the last wave lingers on fronds

of seaweed fingering wave-wet rocks where

brim-filled pools overflow before they

empty when the water surges then sucks,

surges, then sucks. Small anemones first

finger gently, then kiss hungrily as

they sluice down passing plankton too fine for

my eyes, which greedily feast on the sands

glistening, sunwarmed, lit by the last

light of day while slow footsteps meander

with the gentle waves rhythms, rising, falling,

so calming in my ears, that crest falling

with an almost silent swish, hearbeat’s grace,

footfall pace, soothing place. Salt scented air

embraces me, wrapping me, comforting me.

All troubles tumbled away calmed first,

washed by light where the last wave lingers.

beyond ailsa craig (spoken)

A journey through some earliest memories and across the seas beyond great rocks to a safe haven’s shores

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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