"I peered out through the windscreen to see if she was still there. She was not."Caty Bartholomew

I have a zany class of a head on me, as many of you know by now. It is out of one of the crannies at the back of it, somewhere behind my left ear I think, that this piece comes to ye this week just because I was in Spanish Point again, on the west coast of Clare on a recent stormy afternoon and the gale and rain was so wicked that I pulled into the car park over the beach to let the worst of it pass. And boy it was wild out there for sure.

I peered out through the windscreen to see if she was still there. She was not.

The long beach below, lashed by giant waves, flecked with surf and wrack, was totally deserted except for a few screaming gulls overhead. There were only three cars in the car park, probably pulled up like myself in the hope the storm would ease.

Grey clouds on the horizon chased each other's flickingly angry lashing tails. The Atlantic was growling and gnawing at the yellow sands and the cliffs. There was an elemental beauty about the seascape for sure.

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It must have been in weather like this that the lost galleons of the ill-fated Spanish Armada were foundered all those centuries ago in the tragedy that gave Spanish Point it's name.

I kept a lookout for the lady for a few minutes but, no, she was not there. I reflected that she had already been quite fragile and elderly on the only time I'd seen her walking the beach on another wild winter day nearly 20 years ago now.

Maybe she has passed to a more peaceful place than she clearly was in back then. I hope she has indeed, because the image of her that I saw that day is seared forever into that zany head I was talking about above.

She was wearing a tweed overcoat, black in color, which would not have been waterproof against the falling rain. She was wearing a black headscarf. She did not have an umbrella.

She was wearing the style of fur-lined suede boots which were then widely worn by women of her age. Her legs were spindly as they disappeared into those bootlets. She was walking quite slowly just above the wave line.

She was very alone but, somehow, she looked like a soul who was not lost; who knew exactly where she was and what she was doing. I was never closer to her than 50 yards so I never saw her little face at all.

There is a toilet block in the car park. Back then I saw a workman in a high-vis waistcoat standing at the doorway.

I approached him, began chatting as you do in West Clare, and mentioned the lone lady walking along the beach despite the severity of the storm. He told me that she was a regular feature on the strand, winter and summer. She walked it about every day.

He had heard that the reason for that was because, as a young woman from the next parish, she had been engaged to marry a local fisherman who, sadly, was drowned at sea about two months before they were due to wed. And his body was never recovered.

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Those are the harshest tragedies of all because there is no closure. That is what the man told me.

Anyway, being the cracked hack that I am, I went home and wrote a ballad about that tragedy. I sang it a few times in the next few months in singsong sand then, frankly, forgot all about it.

It must have lodged in that space behind my left ear but, dammit, it was dislodged the other afternoon and came back to me, word for word, air and all in a process I cannot understand.

I sang it on the way home in honor of the little old hurted lady, and now I am passing it on to any of you free, gratis, to put your own air to it and maybe sing it at some good Irish pub session around St. Patrick's Day which, as we all know, is coming up very fast.

I call it “The Spanish Point Ballad” but you can call it anything you want.

Here it is:

Her love has eyes blue as the seas on which he plies his trade,

A fisherman out of Spanish Point,

A handsome, roving blade,

Her love has eyes blue as the seas on which he plies his trade,

A fisherman out of Spanish Point,

A handsome, roving blade.

Her love has eyes blue as the seas,

But she’ll never see them again,

For bluer still are the rolling seas,

Off the sunny coast of Spain.


Her love has curls as black as coals,

She’d caressed them with her hands,

Before he would board the fishing boat,

To bear him far from land.

Her love has curls as black as coals,

But she’ll never touch them again,

For blacker still are the killing deeps,

Off the sunny coast of Spain.


Her love has arms as strong as steel,

To hold her to his breast.

Before he would hoist the mutton sail,

To bear him far out west.

Her love has arms as strong as steel,

But she’ll ne’er feel them again.

For stronger still are the wrecking tides,

Off the sunny coast of Spain.

She walks the shoreline every day,

Through the wintry winds do blow.

The crazy lady of Spanish Point,

They call her she well knows.

But she never feels the bitter cold,

Nor the driving sleet and rain.

For her heart was drowned 40 years ago,

Off the sunny coast of Spain.

There it is. Over to you. Cobble your own air on to it and away you go.