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The Leon
Stevie O'Halloran
Recorded in singer’s home, September 1994

Carroll Mackenzie Collection


You rambling, roving Irish men, I hope you will draw near,
Those few and true verses, I mean to let you hear.
It’s all about that awful wreck, I’ll have you to beware,
That occurred on the coast of Ireland, in Quilty, County Clare.

On the fourth day of October, being in nineteen hundred and seven,
A French crew and their captain were praying to God in heaven.
Their ship she struck upon on a rock, and soon she sprung a leak,
The captain raised the signal high as he was drowning in the deep.

Those brave fishermen from Quilty town knew what the signal meant,
And for the lives of human flesh, it made them discontent.
To cross the wild and stormy foam, across it they did go
Without dread or fear, they gave three cheers: ‘We’ll man our own canoes.’

There was eighteen men in six canoes, with Pat Boyle on the lead,
To save those sinking sailors, with him they all agreed.
They pulled and tugged with all their might, across the stormy foam.
Three miles out to that wrecked crew, three miles from house and home.

And yet they pulled with all their might, alas I must regret,
Clancy, Connors, and Tom Stack, their boat it got upset.
Dashing, thrashing like three fishes, they swam right through the deep,
Until their comrades picked them up, those heroes true and brave.
And took them in their own canoes, where sailors called aloud:
‘You brave fishermen of Quilty town, your nation ought be proud.’

They saved the captain and twelve men from the sinking ship the Leon,
And took them in their own canoes to our little isle so green.
Where beverage flows spontaneously, like music of Irish tunes.
Just as the tunes our fathers played – ‘Inishkillen’, ‘Clare Dragoons.’

I now must stop my feeble pen, you see I am no poet.
It was not for gold or silver, those few true lines I wrote.
But as I read of those fishermen, I could not well surpass,
So help me, boys, and give three cheers, to the men of Quilty Cross.


“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 Mikey Kelleher

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