Cork balladeer writes song about Storm Ellen

On Wednesday night, songwriter Jimmy Crowley watched Storm Ellen sweep in from his Cobh home and penned a song about it...
Cork balladeer writes song about Storm Ellen
A resident of Glenheights Road helps move loose branches after one of the trees uprooted and fell during Storm Ellen. Picture: Damian Coleman

THIS is a first for me, folks; I’m writing this song ‘live’, in much the same way as a sports commentator relays a match. For Hurricane Ellen is blowing like blue blazes outside my window.

She came on to blow about an hour ago, but now she’s gone up a few octaves and she has taken the seas up with her.

I have a first-rate view here in Cobh, a veritable royal box of a vista, which can be a bit frightening when you look out and see the awesome power of the elements.

Anyway, for the craic and maybe for the challenge, I contrived to write a song about the storm even as she screams.

I lived in Dunedin, Florida, for six years and hurricanes were a regular feature of life from about late September onwards. But you could be lucky too and might never taste their wrath.

If the hurricane is a bad boy, the tornado is a wicked devil altogether and by far more sinister and dangerous. But the way our climate is going, I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if they’ll be the next salute.

IN TUNE: Jimmy Crowley
IN TUNE: Jimmy Crowley

Ellen is now blowing like a demon. Storms of my youth, not surprisingly, tumble back along the years with the dint of the tumult

When we lived in Cór Aodha, Donnybrook, beautiful stately oak trees adorned the rim of Westgrove Lawn, directly opposite our council terrace. With a waist as wide as the length of our clothesline, these beauteous monsters cut a dash and pierced the heavens. My mother used to dread the storms; especially as my father used be away a lot working with the other Dagenham Yanks to support us. Ma reckoned if one of those conkers came down, not just our house, but the whole upper terrace, maybe seven houses in a row, would be scrunched to the earth.

But, in much they same way as she dealt with thunder and lightening and polio too, generous dollops of holy water seemed to do the business.

It’s early yet, about two and a half hours into the storm, and there’s venom in Ellen’s heart. Just another few knots could have chutes and slates churning around outside, ready to take the head off you.

But, in a few hours, it will be consigned to the safety of the past tense and maybe my mother’s remedy meantime might answer.

You can sing this week’s song to the the tune of that fine old Scottish jig, The Campbells Are Coming.

Hatches are battened all over the gaff,

All the boats berthed tied fore and aft;

The skippers perspiring all weary and blue

Wondering what damage Storm Ellen will do.

A terrible bitch and a jade in her heart,

Storm Ellen is making for these lovely parts,

Some say she’s blowing just off Hy Brasil;

She’ll be heading for Queenstown if we’ll be here still.

Chorus after each verse:

Oh, Ellen is coming, ochón, ochón ó,

The rigging is strumming, ochón, ochón ó,

I wish in my heart you were over and done,

With slates on me roof and a smile from the sun.

Our lovely mild climate was once a delight;

What happened at all to us all overnight?

They’ve melted the ice-cap, they’ve toasted the earth,

The seas rising up with a thump in the surf

When I bid farewell to sweet Florida’s shore;

I thought I’d never see hurricanes more;

But now they’re as common as days in the week,

They’d shake the foundations of old Castlefreke.

They say to Rosscarberry thither she’ll go

But I’m greatly afeard ’tis up here she’ll blow,

We’ve met all her brothers and sisters in tow,

Wilma and Ciara, Catriona also,

Gonzalo and Gaston, and Andria too

All blew with great gusto and hullabaloo,

Tobias is coming, I’ll have you to know,

But by then we’ll be gone where the pineapples grow.

There were storms long ago when I was at school,

They huffed and they puffed but they weren’t that cruel,

Me Ma was unnerved and knew we’d be done,

If one of the oak trees from Foley’s came down.

Farewell to our lovely predictable clime;

We never know now what comes down the line;

If you live on the coast you’d better make haste

And head for the Nagles where you’ll be safe.

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