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Poetry and Stories by Anne (Hogan) Phelan
The Poetry of Anne Phelan
Paramount Poetry says of Anne's poetry:
A natural gift of expressing nature, Anne's superb, fresh, flowing poetry is clearly inspired by her surroundings, yet
there is far more at work. Appealing to the senses and emotions, the reader is gently absorbed physically and emotionally.
If you read nothing else on this page, read 'Return to Gola'...which will instantly make you want to read the rest, anyway!
Anne is from Tramore in Ireland's County Waterford - and, almost literally, paints it proudly.
"Walking the Beach at Tramore" ♦ "Tragedy in the Dunes" ♦ "Fallen Soldiers" ♦ "Return to Gola" &diams "Curraghmore" ♦ "The Wreck of the Sea Horse"
Tramore, Co. Waterford, S.E. Ireland
Walking the Beach at Tramore.
As I walked along at the edge of the bay
On a sunny, peaceful, spring like day
I thought of generations who had gone before
And walked as I did this very same shore.
The sand was smooth, untrammeled, gold
Beach pebbles rounded as in days of old.
Assorted seashells were strewn on the beach
And seaweed stranded out of wavelets reach.
The waves foamed ashore and gently regressed.
To my ear a striped seashell I pressed.
The sea was calm and crystal-clear.
My thoughts wandered back over many a year--
To when Bronze age fishermen lived in the dunes
And locals believed they heard fairy tunes!
Down amongst the sand dunes hidden
Lies a prehistoric kitchen midden,
Where history says men in days of yore
Discarded bones and shells outside the door.
To Curraghmore we wended our way
At the end of a balmy August day.
A heron winged low o'er The Clodiagh Stream
Like a highly imaginative childhood dream.
A grouse strode on the lawn of velvet green
As we stopped to savour the magical scene.
Rabbits gamboled in the dappled shade
Of the lovely, leafy, oak tree glade.
The Stately Home stood square and strong
As the winding path we strolled along.
Steeped in history this venerable place
Could tell a tale to make your heart race.
The time had come when we had to leave
And homewards our pensive way to weave.
Tragedy in The Dunes
Just a mile from my own front door
I strolled along on the glistening shore
Until I arrived at the tiered sand dunes
Where an age-old myth tells of fairy-tunes.
My mind wandered back to a fog-laden night,
After a Search and Rescue flight,
When a stricken helicopter tried to land
Just yards from the safety of the smoothened sand.
Their mission ended in a terrible crash.
They hit a high dune with a horrible smash.
Four families are left broken and sad
Each of them missing a fine young lad.
Our little town joins in their unbearable grief.
A frightful memory now enshrouds our beach.
Four Air Corps heroes lost their lives,
On that foggy and tragic July night,
In the lovely sand dunes of Tramore
So close to the safety of the golden shore.
Memorial on Tramore esplanade
I went for a walk in the woods today.
Along the paths dead trees lay.
Last Winter's storms took them down
Ash and elm and oaks full-grown.
Twas sad to see them as they lay,
Like fallen soldiers in meadows of hay.
Brambles scrambled here and there,
Shy primroses and snowdrops fair.
My mind wandered back over many a year
When I played as a child in a tree-house here.
Return to Gola
The craggy -faced fishermen return to visit their former island home
Where ten generations of their families had eked out an existence.
The Island of Gola lies a mile from the Donegal coast.
Their little boat beats its way through the choppy sea
Heading towards the lonely shore,
Where waves cream and foam over grey rocks.
A school of porpoises rolls around the boat.
The travellers land at the deserted pier
Where lobster pots still line the little quay.
The visitors stroll sadly along the empty streets and sheep lanes
Towards the crumbling cottages with their empty hearths
Where turf fires used to glow
Warming the islanders gathered to hear the tales of the local storyteller.
In the schoolhouse desks still stand in forlorn rows.
The last lesson is still clearly chalked on the blackboard.
The rollbook lists in copperplate handwriting
The names of former pupils -
Denis O Donnell
Michael O Donnell.
Where are these lads now?
Do the next generation know of their long family history ?
A storm lantern stands on a sturdy table.
A cartwheel leans agains a dry stone wall
Where fishing nets still hang forever drying
An anchor and chain lie in the little yard
Where hens used to scratch.
Bartley steps reluctantly into his old home.
A pictureless frame still hangs on the wall.
He sits in the chair where his grandfather used to sit,
Smoking his dudeen.
Outside again, weeds flourish in the garden,
Once so carefully cultivated and fertilised
With seaweed laboriously drawn from the beach.
A stackeen of turf, footed by his father still stands by the gable.
The thatched roof is falling in.
Bartley and Donal recall how the island once teemed with life.
On Summer Sundays children paddled on the beaches
Mothers knitted and chatted and watched the boys and girls
Who roamed the island fearless and free.
The menfolk talked of the weather and the fishing
The way island fishermen do.
Wearily the men return to the pier.
As their wee boat cuts through the waves
They stand and watch
As the island seems to get smaller and smaller.
A silent tear courses down Bartley's weather-beaten cheek.
Then they take a deep breath
And in unison ,as though rehearsed,
They turn to face the mainland,
Looking forward to arriving home to their new cottages
On the coast of Donegal
Where a warm fire and a kettlle on the hob will greet them.
The Wreck of the Sea Horse
On stormy nights, at the end of the family rosary my Mother always added a 'prayer for the poor sailors'. She was well aware of the danger of violent Atlantic storms as she had lived as a child in the naval port of Simonstown in South Africa.
I often think of the terrible tragedy of the sinking of The Sea Horse which happened in the Bay of Tramore, County Waterford in January 1816. The transport vessel sailed from Ramsgate in England bound for Cork. Officers and soldiers of the 59th Regiment on board were looking forward to their new posting in the relative peace of Ireland after taking part in the turmoil of Europe during the Napoleonic Wars. Having holidayed at home over Christmas they departed from Ramsgate and sailed down The English Channel in ideal weather conditions, but as they approached the coast of Cork the weather deteriorated rapidly and a heavy swell developed.
The ship's mate John O Sullivan, who was familiar with the coastline, acted as lookout, but to the horror of his shipmates he fell from the rigging having lost his grip in the stormy gusts. He fell heavily to the deck breaking his limbs and died some hours later.
Meanwhile the mast was broken, and as the sail was shredded the ship was blown back eastwards towards the rocky coast of Waterford. The Sea Horse drifted in the fierce gale driven by the force of racing tide and wind into the Bay of Tramore. Captain Gibbs tried to drop anchor but his vessel was driven further into the relentless arms of Tramore Bay as the mighty anchor dragged impotently. Lifeboats were washed away and the ship began to break up.
Local people gathered on the beach but were helpless as they had no lifeboat. As the waves thundered and crashed on the shore, they could see the hapless soldiers lining the deck in the vague hope of rescue. Some remained in their cabins with their wives, hugging their children. Others hurriedly emptied sea chests or trunks and placed their little ones in them hoping in vain that at least the children would float to the shore.
As the ship broke up and sank, some clung to planks to keep afloat, but of nearly 400 souls on board only 30 men survived. The 33 wives and 38 children on board were all lost. The locals watched helplessly from the windlashed strand, until some brave men waded into the seething tide to help the victims and were later commended for their bravery.
Lloyds of London eventually erected a navigational aid, known to us here in Tramore as 'The Metalman'.
In his blue jacket and white trousers, he stands atop one of three enormous pillars on Newtown Head. On the opposite headland stand two pillars, which act as a navigation guide, warning ships of the dangerous rocks.
As the Metalman stands pointing out to sea, he is said to warn:
"Keep off, good ship, keep off from me. For I am the rock of misery."
We have local myths about 'The Metalman', but I will leave that story for another day.
©2001 Anne Phelan - Anne lives in County Waterford
©2001 Images HHH
Poetry reproduced from Paramount Poetry
|Linked to||C.A. Hogan|
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