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Thursday, August 27, 2015
Loudon Wainwright III – Carrickfergus
In that I’m a writer… I have to spend long periods
of time alone. I’ve accepted this, and I don’t really mind
it to be honest with you… And I always try to be honest
with you, dear reader, after all you’re not a woman…. Or
at least, you’re not my woman – so I can be honest with
you. Ho! Ho!
In all this time that I spend by myself, I tend to listen
to songs I love. And I cry in my beer during the love songs.
But this song is problematic… OK, this song renders
me, occasionally, to my hands and knees… and to crawling to
some corner where I cannot be observed… sobbing in a
most unmanly fashion.
Carrickfergus is a TRADITIONAL IRISH love song.
And if you listen to it five or six times in a row, you’ll
notice certain facts that make the gorgeous melody, the story
even more disturbing.
The singer is drinking all the way through the song.
It’s important to understand this – for the hopes that he
“I would swim over the deepest ocean”
“With gold and silver I would support her”… these
are unrealistic and impossible dreams which make
the song even more tragic.
For there’s no fucking way our singer is ever
going to swim far over or support her. “My childhood
friends have all departed”…. That means they’ve
died. So the singer is no longer any
spring chicken – and even if he were a spring
chicken, there’s no way he’s going to make
it across that body of water between Ireland and
Ah, but he loves her. And there’s no doubt about that!
How do I know? Because it’s a rule. If the melody
is beautiful – he loves her!
“I am sick now…” well, yeah. He’s not going
to make it, but the romantic dream of his love fills
his heart, and that’s true. Otherwise there’s no
way he could sing about her with such a beautiful melody.
At least this is my belief. And I’m sticking to it.
Images of death are all through this song
(Kilkenny – marble stones as black as ink)… “My
days are numbered.” Yeah, well all our days
are numbered… as a specialist explained to me
in the hospital this morning.
The deepest ocean… the deepest ocean –
my love to find…
(Now “the handsome boatman” suggests
to me that once this song was sung by a woman…
But let’s not worry about who sings it, now.)
At any rate, a great song! I hope my few
comments do not detract from the beauty
of the ballad.
Cheers! Bill Milne