Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Boys of The Basin Canal

The Basin Canal was a channel dug out of the New Orleans mud between 1831 and 1838, as many as 30,000 Irish were said to have died in its construction. As the line in this song of mine goes "who's knows how many did fall." "The Boys of the Basin Canal" will form part of the album "Hy Brasil, Songs of The Irish in Latin America." There is a strong Spanish influence in New Orleans's and it was run from Cuba by them from 1762 to 1803. In many ways it is as much a Caribbean city as a southern city. The Irish too played their part in its long history.

Crawfish Lacey and Mick O' Neill
sweated 'til it hid their tears.
Sinking in a swamp still they trudged on
as they dreamt of the old country.

I still see them now when I shut my eyes
as insects hum in the warm afternoon,
Etched in blood and grit and mud,
the boys of the basin canal.

Spailpíns all, we heard the call,
straight from the shipyards we came.
Hope sunk in a swamp, for a dollar a day,
who knows how many did fall?

Disease knocked us down as bosses scowled,
"a terrible loss of dollars today."
"what great bother if they die!" I hear them cry,
"there's more coming every day."

I'd had enough, though they wanted more,
they'd break you for gold, full shame.
So I took my pack and I never looked back,
and I walked on down the long road.

When I heard Lacey died I pitied O' Neill,
toiling aggrieved and alone,
against Gael and Gall like a beast he howled,
at the moon and the night and the sea.

When I reached the Bayou I sent the word,
"don't rage aggrieved and alone,"
"there's a trade to be had if you hit the road,
And come down to the Irish Bayou."

O' Neill made it out, threw his shovel down
he followed me down the quiet coast,
where fresh breezes blow and wild flowers grow,
Way down on the Irish bayou,

Though the day is long, on the rolling maine,
on the wide open plains of the sea.
no green fields of land, nor Arab sands,
could tempt me away, I am freed.

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