The Ouzel Galley (Paul O’Brien)


When daddy embarked on the Ouzel

The sails were billowed and grand

They set out to do some fair-trading

With the sultans in old Turkey land

He said ‘It will take but a fortnight

To comply with our bold captains plans’

But I could tell by his smile he was fibbing

Him winking and shaking my hand


In Ringsend the mood was elation

From the Shelly Banks out to the Bay

And mammies with kids were all waving

As the Galley was pulling away

With the wind and the tides in their favour

By the light of the late autumn sun

While the Bishop he prayed for fair weather

Good tidings and a speedy return


There was worry and much consternation

When Christmas and Easter had gone

No sign of the Ouzel returning

No sails on the Hor-i-o-zon

No word from merchants in passing

Or trading ships sailing that line

No sign of a soul or a sailor

No word from that daddy of mine


When three years had passed without mention

The merchants counted their cost

And agreed to pay out insurance

Conceding the good ship was lost

Me mammy she cried all that evening

Nursing the baby she’d found

That morning way back in September

When the man we call ‘uncle’ came ‘round


So mam she turned into a ‘shawlie

And widow at thirty-two years

And bought a new bed with the divvies

And me uncle he had a few beers

Many a family was wounded

By the loss of a father or son

But despite the sad situfication

In Ringsend we still had some fun


Two years had passed since the payout

And the survivors they started again

Families that once had eight children

Now able to boast nine or ten

With much painting and decoration

In colours both tasteful and quaint

Houses one dilapidated

Now sported a fresh coat of paint


Now all was well in the village

And we’d learnt to live with the loss

And the Ouzel was naught but a memory

Just a bridge that we’d managed to cross

When suddenly early one morning

A ship appeared in the mist

Heavily laden with booty

And a crew that was nearly half sassed


Soon there was laughing and cheering

And welcoming travellers home

And waving of hankies and nappies

And promises no more to roam

Then amid the embraces and cuddles

And that wonderful welcoming scene

Some oul wan plucked up the courage

And said ‘Jazes man, where have yis been?’


The captain began for to stammer

Him blushing at the request

‘We were ambushed by dastardly brigands

With tattoos and dirty string vests

They forced us into collusion

Robbing the boats from the King

And plundering towns on the seaboard

And all kinds of despicable things’


‘One night when the curs had a party

They were high on tequila and rum

And knackered from ravaging maidens

We knew that out time it had come

In no time we’d proven their master

And locked them all up in chains

And wounded them sore with our curses

By calling them terrible names’


‘Then we set sail for auld Dublin

The town that we all loved so well

And the thoughts of a hold full of bounty

Well, it made our little hearts swell

With the treasures we’ve liberated

From the hands of Algerian Corsairs

We have returned to our loved ones

To straighten out all our affairs’


But the tale of this ship’s captain

Was greeted with great disbelief

Though no one dared for to brand them

As pirates or even as thieves

But even still folk were uneasy

When they seen the treasure in piles

Soon frowns and raised eyebrows

Replaced the cheers and the smiles


My daddy looked down at his presents

For each child a hand whittled toy

Bejazus I’ve counted and counted

But how come I’m short for two boys?’

He patted me head and said ‘Jamesy

You know you’re my pride and my joy

But when I set sail with the Ouzel

Your mam had two girls and a boy’


He then took one look at me mammy

And the twins as they played on the street

And noted the bulge in her blouse

And the new pair of shoes on her feet

Then they hugged and they kissed in elation

True lovers at their journey’s end

Such an immaculate reception

Can only be had in Ringsend


That was me daddy’s last voyage

And he settled down on the shore

And we were happy together

Though it never was quite as before

And he’d tell us tales of the ocean

While he put the small ones to bed

And tuck them in under the blankets

Tossing the curls on their heads


And mammy seems quite contented

Though I still see a glint in her eye

Watching the twins and them playing

And the youngest is her pride and joy

So we’ve all let bygones be bygones

In Ringsend the chapter is closed

And my uncle calls ‘round of a Sunday

‘Cos the ma is still washing his cloths


And the traders they sold off the cargo

To cover insurance and costs

And they set up a council of merchants

To investigate ships that get lost

That was my tale of the Ouzel

And me father’s adventures at sea

And I treasure the hand whittled mermaid

That me daddy had brought home for me