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Cork Lives
George the cat, who died around 15 years ago, but is still remembered fondly by Jimmy Crowley
George the cat, who died around 15 years ago, but is still remembered fondly by Jimmy Crowley
SOCIAL BOOKMARKS

A ballad in praise of my wonderful pet cat George

LE cúnamh Dé, it won’t be too long now before this song appears on my album, to be called Life, being my observations on life as it happened when I lived in sunny Dunedin in Florida, in Sundays Well; in sea-girth Feothanach in west Kerry, not to mention the leafy suburbs of Ballinlough.

We’re planning a proper, celebratory launch at a dacent venue early in the new year,but there probably will be advance copies ready for Christmas and you can check on jimmycrowley.com.

Life is about normal things that visit us; Life sings about stuff like hurt, loss, love, joy, Snowbirds and Greyhound buses; about Obama and Cuba; about pining for home as an exile in a foreign land, and, curiously, about one particularly beautiful cat called George.

He was a long-haired black and white kitten when we adopted him in Sundays Well, the first cat I ever lived with — quite an eye-opener for a man who had lived with dogs all his life.

My son James was quite young when George moved in and it was delightful to see them grow up together. But I lived in horror of the busy road in Sundays Well, by St Vincent’s Church. A few nights when I’d return at all hours from gigs, I might find him meowing for me in the church grounds. Though he wasn’t a serious rambling rake, I still worried about a potential horrible fate in ‘the suds’ of a lorry, as we used to say as kids.

The transition to the Southside wasn’t easy for George, being a Norrie cat with Norrie butties. I’ll ne’er forget the sweet memory of taking him across the river, soon after we emigrated, and placing him on my son’s bed, just as he awoke one morning.

It was that same son James who called me years later as I tried to snatch some sleep on board Salonika as I sailed her back to Crosshaven from Baltimore. He told me as bravely as he could that George was dead. This was around 15 years ago now, but the memory of that dreadful conversation remains. The worst part of all was that James was there at the house on his own to have to deal with this; both his parents were away when a neighbour called and told him George was seriously injured in his back garden having got foul of a car. The vet told James that the pelvis was broken; he’d have to be put to sleep.

I won’t forget the leaden loss in my heart all through the watches of that miserable wet night in Glandore on board Salonika. I abandoned the boat and rushed home. We picked George up from the vet and me and James took him home in a little cardboard box, though I could see a square of black and white through a crack in the box. We gave him a little tour of the house, carrying him in my arms to all his familiar haunts and I sang a little song for him.

Then we buried him in ‘The Mounts’ at the back, where many pets had found their resting place before him.

This song, simply called George, is dedicated to him...

You sniff at the battered oul’ bag for awhile,

Gauge your white whiskers to measure the miles.

Then I notice a tear in your pussycat eyes

As I gather myself for the road.

Go play with your sister, George, catch a grey mouse;

There’s a sleepy old sparrow there back o’ the house;

May you find as much peace as good fortune allows,

Till your rub-a-dub ruffles me home.

My son, he said to me a long time ago:

Dad, his face is like a song!

And my true love she smiled and to me she did say,

You may search the world over ’mongst rakes and wild rovers;

Tomcats and tabbies, black and white daddies

But no nicer nature you’ll find.

On the day of your birth when you first saw the light,

Plato deposed that you weren’t quite right;

So he sketched a black diamond right under your white

And a single black boot for the rain.

Eight lives and a half unto you he bestowed

And he gave you a bag of meows for the road,

Then he called Pangur Bán for to take you in tow

Down the long road to our family.

My son, he said to me a long time ago:

Dad, his face is like a song.

And my true love she smiled and to me she did say,

You may search the world over from Dingle to Dover,

’Mongst tomcats and tabbies, black and white daddies

But no nicer nature you’ll find.

I stare at the battered old basket in vain,

The empty blue dish that measures the pain.

I squint at the storm-spattered window in vain

For the bushiest tail on the road.

With a tocht in my heart and a deep malady

And Samhain’s dark mantle has enveloped me

And I curse every car and each fool who tells me,

Sure, he was only an old tomcat! (spoken)