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The Kilkee Drowning
Martin Reidy
Tullaghaboy, Connolly
Recorded in singer's home, June 1978

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

Martin Reidy

‘Twas in Kilkee, that angry sea, with no help there near to save.
All in the hand, far from the strand three met a watery grave.
In heart and joy, they went to apply their nets for to get fish,
Lord take their souls, in Your control, and heaven be their rest.

Where is the eye, that could keep dry, when the news did reach The Blocks.
Oh God! a wail that did prevail, they perished among the rocks.
They lost their lives, their widowed wives and little children small.
They well and fret, and won’t forget, till God do on them call.

And on a stump, at ? long will your mothers seek.
Across the foam, that raging foam, for you who could not speak.
Her earthly joy, her son, her boy will never reach the shore.
But oh, his love, in heaven above, will meet with you astór.


Conversation between Martin Reidy, Pat Mackenzie and Jim Carroll:
Martin: There’s more of it, ‘tis a very long song. I was only a kid when I learned that one.
Jim: And, you say that happened before you were born?
Martin: Oh, it’s nearly the length of my years, my life, since it happened.

"The following came with an internet appeal for information from U.S citizen James Carten, on the circumstances of the death of his grandfather, Michael MacNamara who as drowned off Kilkee in 1910. Martin’s verses seem to refer to this incident. The poem was written by an unknown author in the United States who heard about the tragedy. The author circulated the poem in the local Irish social clubs in attempt to raise money for the families of the fishermen.

In memory of the Three Fishermen Drowned near Kilkee
I heard a sad story that grieves me of late,
Of three men that lived in Kilkee.
One night they were drowned and they never were found,
By the high gales and swells of the sea.
They fished for a trade, a good living they made,
This sad story to you I’ll relate.
O! the sea must be high that caused them to die
And to meet such a sorrowful fate.

It happened to be on the wild, raging sea,
These three men went fishing one night;
They put their nets out, and stayed thereabout;
O! but soon got a terrible fright.
When the nets they did haul their boat were too small,
The strain on the ropes for to stand;
And they knew by the motion of the waves in the ocean
That they never again would see land.

O! many a year, without any fear
To the “Rocks” these three men did go.
They carried their boats, and they put it afloat
On the ocean, they strongly did row.
O! many a storm they raced and they beat,
Their dear lives were always the stake;
O! the waves they were strong or the nets must go wrong,
Or the shore these men would make.

These men were well trained, a great name they had made,
On the ocean their business they knew;
When young they were brought to the “Rocks” and there
Taught and shown there a lesson or two.
They could read every sign that appear any time
On the ocean, when danger was high,
And the time they could tell, and knew very well
When they look at the stars in the sky.

O! how they drowned? Or can’t they be found
To build o’er their graves a tomb,
And write on its stone, how these three died alone
And met such a sad ending doom?
The youngsters ’twould teach, when the age reach,
To beware of all dangers at sea;
Stronger boats they would make, and less chances they’d take
When such words on this tomb they would see.

O! poor Michael Mack, you will never come back,
For you, men, my heart it feels sore.
When I was a lad I felt happy and glad,
For to see you come inside my door.
And the sweet songs you’d sing to my heart joy you’d bring
And you sang them so willing and free.
May your soul rest in peace, and may it please
That you now in Heaven should be.

A good man was John Mack, sure he never was slack;
This race is the first he lost,
He tried all his might, his boat to keep right,
But, O! my what a terrible cost.
For his home he did care, and all he could spare.
For its use he put it that way.
O! the night he was drowned, may his soul be found
Away up in Heaven that day.

O! the poor dumb boy, always laughing with joy,
His fate was the saddest of all,
His tongue could not call, or talk none at all,
When he in the ocean he did fall,
But with his heart he did speak, his Maker to seek,
To the Heavens his voice it did reach,
His soul may it rest, and be with the blest,
In Heaven, and there find his speech.

Any house on the “Blocks”, if one ever there knocks,
You will find a quick open door,
You’ll get what you need without stint or greed,
With welcome and kindness galore.
The people of Clare, all round everywhere,
Should come to their aid by the score
From the North to the South, from the West to the East,
From all round Erin’s green shore.

From the Irish Times, 18th November, 1910:
‘Drowning Accident at Kilkee; Three Fishermen Lost.
A painful sensation was caused in Kilkee by a sad accident, which occurred in the early hours of the morning off the coast, which resulted in the drowning of three fishermen. It appears that Michael McNamara, aged about 40, his brother John McNamara, aged 52, and a deaf mute named Patrick Houlihan, 50 years of age, went out at dusk last evening, mackerel fishing, in a canoe or canvas covered boat to the fishing grounds outside George's Head and Bishop's Island. Having made an exceptionally fine haul of seventeen hundred mackerel, they returned to the shore about 2 o'clock and disposed of their capture. As the night was so promising they again proceeded seawards and shot their nets. All went well until shortly before 5 o'clock am, when the wind came up suddenly from the northwest, accompanied by hail showers. It is believed that a squall capsized the frail craft, precipitating the occupants into the sea. Heavily clothed as they were, and with the tangle of nets, they were absolutely helpless. When the oars drifted in to the shore a few hours later a number of fishermen put out to make a search. They found the upturned boat, but there was no trace of the crew. The nets to which the canoe was moored were cut adrift and sank immediately. The spot where the craft was found lies inside the point of Duggerna, on the west, and within the Horseshoe Bay, where it is presumed that the accident occurred. The sad news quickly spread in the town, and hundreds crowded the beach, including the wives and children of the lost fishermen. John McNamara, who was a member of the Town Board, leaves a wife and four children: Michael McNamara a wife and eight young children, and Houlihan was the sole support of a widowed mother.’”
Jim Carroll

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