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The Leon
Mikey Kelleher
Quilty and Depford, London
Recorded in London, 1977

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

Mikey Kelleher

So you rambling, roving Irish men, I hope you will draw near.
It’s new and true recitation, I mean to let you hear.
It’s all about this awful wreck I will have you to beware,
That occurred on the coast of Ireland, on Quilty, County Clare.

The third day of October, in nineteen hundred and seven,
A French crew and their captain, they were praying to God in heaven.
When their ship she struck upon on a rock, and soon she drew a leak,
The captain raised his signal high for drowning on the deep.

The brave fishermen of Quilty knew well what a signal meant,
The loss of lives or human flesh, which made them discontent.
They prepared the wild and wicked foam, the sea were mountains high,
Saying, ‘We’ll save those sinking sailors, or else lie down and die.’

There was eighteen men on six canoes, while Pat Boyle took the lead.
To save the captain and twelve men, and with them all agreed.
They prepared the wild and wicked foam, and across it did they go,
Without dread or fear they gave three cheers, ‘Let us man own canoe.’

They pulled and tugged with all their might, across the stormy foam.
Two miles out to the wrecked crew, and from their little home.
Yet they pulled with all their might, at last we must regret,
That Clancy, Connors, and Tom Stack, their canoe got upset.

They danced and flashed like fishes, and swam right through the waves.
Until their comrades picked them up, those heroes true and brave.
And took them to the sinking ship, where the sailor called out loud,
‘You fishermen of Quilty, your nation ought be proud.’

They took the captain and twelve men from the sinking ship Leon,
And took them in their little canoes to their little isle so green.
Where the Clare men were all sport with their music and Irish tunes.
They played what their forefathers played – ‘Inishkillen’, ‘Clare Dragoons.’

And now I’ll drop my noble pen, you know I am no poet.
It’s not for gold or silver, those simple lines I wrote.
But as I read of those Quilty men, I cannot now surpass,
So help me, boy, give three good cheers, for the men of Quilty Cross.

Mikey Kelleher talks to Pat Mackenzie and Jim Carroll about 'The Leon' :


“On the night of September 30th 1907, the French cargo ship, The Leon XIII, ran into trouble off the coast of West Clare. Despite appalling weather, a group of fishermen from Quilty set out in canoes (currachs) and rescued the entire crew; the only recorded casualty was the captain, who suffered a broken leg. The events of that night are recorded in at least four songs and poems; this is the most popular. An outstanding account of the rescue can be found on the Quilty National School website.”
Jim Carroll

See also
The Leon sung by Stevie O'Halloran

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