The potato blight and resultant Great Famine struck Ireland from 1845 to 1851. Potato crops didn’t recover until 1852, by which time at least one million people had emigrated to escape poverty and starvation. A further one million people perished during this period. Meanwhile, Australia experienced a gold rush.

In the year of eighteen fifty-one a story had begun
When Adair O’Shea was blown away by a comely Irish lass.
She had golden hair, and a smile as rare as mist on a summer’s day;
And her blarney came with sass enough to wilt the flowers of May.

There were suitors manifold for the girl with hair of gold:
One Miss Ellen Quinn of Corofin; the pride of County Clare.
But Adair, with a flair for get-rich schemes, and Ellen, more hard-nosed,
Were attracted to each other like two forces unopposed.

By the loughs and forts of Burren Way, they courted day-by-day,
Where the crags of lime held blooms sublime, and peregrines took wing.
As you may surmise, it was no surprise that fondness grew to love,
And a Claddagh ring on Ellen’s hand replaced her silken glove.

They were wed on a Sunday afternoon, to a lively fiddler’s tune,
And although the blight retained its bite, it didn’t slow their dance.
At the bridal feast the parish priest declared that faith persists,
And he took the chance to lead the hymn entitled: “Simple Gifts.”

In a cabin built on stony ground, the newlyweds soon found
That a bed of straw, a lean-to door, and stock for company
Were enough for now; but still, somehow, they had to find the way
To a future where tenacity and honest sweat repay.

Then, as if on cue, there came the news that lit their readied fuse.
There had been a find of the golden kind in a distant southern land;
Where adventurous folk may shed the yoke of squalor and disease;
And the suntanned Aussie leprechauns hoard nuggets, if you please!

With the force of dreams commanding, and a carpet bag in hand
Adair bid farewell to Ellen—and her parting words were these:
“When sufficient gold is ours to hold, call me to join you there,
Where the native trees have gum for leaves, and days are warm and fair.”

But the weeks passed by like donkey’s years, and magnified her fears
That a tiger snake, or mine mistake, had struck her husband down.
As a balm for doubt, Ellen went all-out to find a substitution
For the kind of thoughts which swirl around for want of resolution.

Ellen made her way to Ballyvaughan on a draught horse dappled grey,
For she chose to see the shore that he had seen fall fast behind.
There the rise and swell performed a spell resulting in reflection;
And it liberated Ellen’s mind, inclined to circumspection.

Where the water lapped the seashore, Ellen saw his face once more
In a sparkling pool, till currents cruel swept in to break the flow.
Left alone again, she thought of when they’d shared such hopes and dreams
Of a life to come, where wealth may grow from toil and golden seams.

At that moment too, when a dusty hue gave way to a sky complete
With an aurous light that his miner’s right had never once revealed;
Adair saw each speck as a fiery fleck, reminding nights of old
When the peat’s light wheeled and danced around her silken tresses gold.

Ellen rode back home and bid farewell to those she ought to tell;
And with usual flair, Ellen snagged a fare on the steamer: Southern Light.
While Adair made plans to trade gold pans for settled life in town,
As he waited for the sight of gold above an Irish gown.

In the world we know, there are times which show that love is no illusion.
For though far apart: call it luck or heart, they had reached the same conclusion!

 

Corofin, County Clare, Ballyvaughan, and Burren Way are locations in Ireland
A Claddagh ring is a traditional Irish ring.

 

 

David Watt is a writer from Canberra, the “Bush Capital” of Australia. He has contributed regularly to Collections of Poetry and Prose by Robin Barratt. When not working for IP (Intellectual Property) Australia, he finds time to appreciate the intrinsic beauty of traditional rhyming poetry.


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11 Responses

  1. Jeff Eardley

    David, a wonderful sweeping tale of boundless love in the best tradition of the great folk ballads. I found my mind racing back to “Farewell to the Gold” by the great English balladeer, Nic Jones. Thank you.

    Reply
    • David Watt

      Thank you Jeff for your appreciation of this romantic ballad. I looked up the lyrics for ‘Farewell to the Gold’, and I can see the strong similarities in theme. I’ll definitely listen to Nic Jones performing the song.

      Reply
  2. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    This engaging tale swept me up in its hypnotic intrigue and held me from beginning to end. The medium soon became secondary to the pictures the poetry paints, yet I have to congratulate you on the smooth flow of words and the magnificent internal rhymes. I appreciate the work that has gone into this fine poem, and I thoroughly enjoyed every wonderful stanza of it. Thank you, David.

    Reply
    • David Watt

      Thanks Susan for your lovely comments. The rhyme scheme was a bit ambitious, so I’m glad the words flowed smoothly in this revised piece.

      Reply
  3. Leo Zoutewelle

    David, this was a fascinating and clever poem/tale I much enjoyed!
    Thank you.

    Reply
  4. C.B. Anderson

    And James Tweedie asked the question: Where has all the narrative poetry gone? Well, James, here’s your answer. And this is not David’s first.

    Reply
  5. Peter Hartley

    David – A fine piece of narrative poetry this, and it well repays reading out loud. I’ve been to the Burren q,uite recently and I think the cliffs there are nearly 2000ft high, which is 600ft higher than anything in the UK. I remember they weren’t terribly well cordoned off either. Something else I remember about Canberra: you can’t even get from one house to the next without a bike can you? Unfortunately I had to do all my touristicism on foot because I couldn’t find any taxis to take me out to the taxi ranks. A beautiful part of the world!

    Reply
  6. David Watt

    Peter, it’s an interesting coincidence that you visited the Burren quite recently. It must have been a wonderful experience, both for the scenery and the history. I don’t have any particular reason for choosing Corofin and the surrounding locale for my narrative poem, apart from the fact that it sounds like a must see part of Ireland. If I ever visit the cliffs i’ll be sure to watch my step.

    The newer housing estate blocks in Canberra are shrinking down in size from the traditional 1/4 acre blocks. But we do generally have a bit of elbow room, especially in the established suburbs. It sounds like you might have developed a few blisters while you were in Canberra. Despite being a city, Canberra still has the beauty of the bush on its doorstep.

    Reply
  7. Monty

    Well played again, David. You’ve become most adept at this story-telling game; and equally adept at internal-rhyming. All-round cleverness.

    Reply

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