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The Five Pilots of Kilbaha
(Roud 12488)
Siney Crotty
Ross, Kilbaha
Recorded in London, date unknown

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

 

Siney Crotty

As the wind rang high on her stormy coast, so the dance of a restless tide,
As a vessel strayed on her onward way, with no pilots on board to guide.
Still from landward upon, sometime the eyes were bent,
And forth and undismayed, to a stranger’s aid, five dauntless pilots went.

There was one who had thrown his spade away, as he ran to the water’s side,
And another two short months before, he had welcomed a youthful bride.
But the spade may lie on the garden ridge, and the young wife may watch in vain.
Still from God’s decree to that stormy seas, they ne’er shall come back again.

No wishful farewell those doomed men took, as they pulled from their native shore.
They were summoned away from their bright side fire, as many’s the time before.
The watery track they traversed of, and the waves were like old friends now,
From whenst they knew, from that storm’s canoe, as they leaped over its gallant prow.

They are gone away and away to death, as they pulled with a hearty will,
Whilst the watchers moved to an eager group, to the top of Dun Dahlen Hill.
They watched the pilots draw near the ship, and the sea give one fatal roll,
And they cried to the God of the Lord above, to have pity on those creatures’ souls.

There’s two gone now and the other three are struggling bravely yet,
With their manly brows to the heaven laid bare, and their teeth in anguish set.
Each meet the waves with a warm heart, as they break through the blinding foam,
For the love of life, for the love of wife, and the love of a cherished home.

There is one left now, and his dwelling place, lies down by the rugged shore,
And it’s well he knew his tiny lads did sport round his cabin door.
But oh, the struggle was dire but brief, the last of the five are gone,
Those gallant men, who for other lives, were ready to risk their own.

Siney Crotty speaks before the song:
"This song is about five pilots. It’s a disaster made in 1873 in the west coast of Clare. Now at that time there were schooners – ships – come up the Shannon, and if they didn’t know the coast from Loop Head to Limerick, they’d call for the local pilot, or the local fisherman, and they’d go in the currachs. Five would go out – four men rowing a boat and a pilot – and they’d pull him on board, and they’d bring him down then towards Kilrush, to Scattery Island. But these five left for Scattery Island and the five of ‘em were lost."

“A locally made song on the following drowning tragedy:
From ‘The Limerick Reporter’, Friday 9th May, 1873.
‘On Wednesday a canoe manned by five fishermen put off from Loop Head to offer pilotage to an Austrian brig which was entering the river and when within twenty yards of the vessel the boat was overwhelmed by an immense wave. The five men were drowned close to the side of the brig, the crew of the latter being prevented by the high wind and sea from rendering assistance. A sworn investigation into the circumstances connected with the fatal accident will be immediately held by the Limerick Harbour Board. The names of the five pilots that drowned off Kilbaha Harbour on the 8th of May 1873 were Michael Brennan and his nephew Tom Brennan, John McNamara, Pat Carmody and Seamus Crotty and the ship's name was the Nico.’”
Jim Carroll


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