Thursday, May 19, 2011

Christy Moore: "the Atlantic's seethe and swell" and the death of the Two Conneelys

The "seethe and swell" of the Atlantic Ocean has been in my thoughts a lot recently as my step daughter is currently sailing from one side of the Atlantic to the other- from the Caribbean Islands to the French Riviera.

So Irish balladeer Christy Moore's song Two Conneeleys, which is a haunting elegy to 2 brothers lost in the Atlantic Sea near the island of Inis Maan off the Irish coast, has a particular poignancy.  Innis Maan is one of the three Aran Islands in Galway Bay on the west coast of Ireland. It has an estimated population of 160 people and is a stronghold of traditional Irish culture.

The Two Conneelys is one of my favourite Christy Moore songs as it  brings together so much of Moore's unique style. His remarkable phrasing and tone of singing, the uniqueness of his guitar picking and his haunting lyrics are all present in the song which pays tribute to the lives of two Irish brothers who drowned at sea off the coast of Inis Maan.

Christy Moore is arguably Irelands greatest contemporary singer in the Irish folk tradition. As a founder of Plantxy and Moving Hearts he revolutionized traditional Irish music by merging traditional and contemporary instrumentation. Moore continues to deliver CD's and live performances of remarkable power and beauty.

The Two Conneelys (and his tribute to Guisepe Conlon) can be found on Moore's 1994 CD King Puck.

Moore's songs have featured on the blog before (here), namely his remarkable tribute to Irishman Guiseppe Conlon, which featured in this blog piece about the death of British actor Pete Posthelwaite (who played Conlon in the Jim Sheridan film In the Name of the Father).

The Two Conneeleys 
(Christy Moore and W.Page)

Hear the Atlantic seethe and swell
And hear the lonesome chapel bell
God save their souls and mind them well
Tomas and Sean Conneeley

Yesterday at half past four
They pushed their currach from the shore
One took the net while one took the oar
The two fisherman Conneeley

From Conor's fort and from Synge's chair
Towards Inis Mor and Inis Iarr
They scout the sea in silent prayer
As they go searching for their neighbours

Dia diob a beiir iascairi brea
nac mbeid ar ais ar barr an tra
Go mbeid sib sona sasta ar neam
Tomas agus Sean o' Congaile*

Draw the seaweed up the hill
And sow potatoes in the drill
Try to understand God's will
And the loss of the two Conneeleys

Hear the Atlantic seethe and swell
And hear the lonesome chapel bell
God save their souls and mind them well
Tomas and Sean Conneeley
*English Translation of Irish Verse:
God be with you two fine fishermen
Who will not be back at the top of the strand
May you have peace and happiness in Heaven
Tomás and Seán Conneeley 


Anonymous said...

It is one of my favorite songs too. My late Mother's grandfather came from not far from there, at Ennistymon. I stayed at a B&B in Spiddal in 1995 and was amazed at the tranquility an size of Galway Bay. But to me it has an aura of an long, unutterable sadness and almost unendurable hardship....foisted on the Irish by the English and the sometimes ferocious Atlantic. It is a tribute to Christi Moore that he has such deep and genuine empathy for others...I admire him immensely. Keith Mackie

Colin Penter said...

Thanks Keith for your interest and wonderful to hear how the song evokes such memories of people and place. Yes i concur with you about Christy Moore. I have posted more about him recently on the blog. I have not been to that part of Ireland so I am very taken by your description of the way the area is so shaped by and imbued with its history and geography- what you describe as the area's sadness and hardship, the consequence of the British colonial past and the remarkable power of the Atlantic. Beautifully put. Regards