Thursday, June 13, 2013


What has Calamity Jane got to do with the song, The Dutchman....nothing, only that they're both to do with music and words and LOVE.
Lisvernane National School is presenting its yearly show tomorrow night in Lisvernane; a beautiful little village nestled at the foot of the Galtee Mountains in the glorious Glen of Aherlow. I am indeed grateful to have been teaching drama at that school for the last four years and tomorrow night's show is the culmination of weeks and months of hard work by all the pupils. We are doing snippets from Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, Les Miserables, together with the full work of Jack and the Beanstalk and an abridged version of Calamity Jane.

After a long day of rehearsals, I went out to dinner to celebrate my brother's 55th birthday (Britvic Birthday!) at a little restaurant in Clonmel, that I love, called Catalpa. It is below pavement level, and requires patrons to step down into it. There are whitewashed walls, arches and stone-flagged floors. Tables are placed here and there in small adjoining rooms and intimate alcoves. We arrived for dinner at nine and the place was buzzing with happy voices and clinking glasses. The food was delicious. I had organized a birthday cake for my brother and everyone that was left in the restaurant joined in with the singing of Happy Birthday. The owner of the establishment, Bernard....a character, informed us that there were Irish traditional musicians playing in the The Posthouse, a pub just up from Mulcahy's. By this stage it was 11pm and I knew I had a very hard day ahead of me today, but birthdays are special. There was a small crowd in the pub, but nevertheless they were appreciative. The unassuming musicians sat in the corner by the front door and entertained with jigs and reels. It was great craic. I then thought about one of my very very favourite songs, The Dutchman, and walked over to ask them if they knew it, and if so, would they perform it. They said they did, and assured me that they would play it. I was thrilled, and like a broken gramophone, I rattled on and on to my brother and his partner, about how wonderful this song was. About six reels and jigs later, I heard the first strains....'This is it have to listen to this!' They were just setting the song up and before I knew what came over me, I walked back over to them and asked if I could sit with them and join in with the chorus. They were very gracious and allowed me to sit in. I was delighted to be alongside these talented musicians, singing this gorgeous song, with the most poignantly sad lyrics and musical intervals of a slightly French quality. I have rarely enjoyed singing so much. It wasn't about me or my singing, it was about the song and I loved every second of that experience. It will stay with me forever. Definitely a Strawberry Moment!

The lads played and sang a great version last night, but this is my favourite version performed here by Makem and Clancy.

The Lyrics

The Dutchman's not the kind of man
Who keeps his thumb jammed in the dam
That holds his dreams in,
But that's a secret that only Margaret knows.

When Amsterdam is golden in the summer,
Margaret brings him breakfast,
She believes him.
He thinks the tulips bloom beneath the snow.

He's mad as he can be, but Margaret only sees that sometimes,
Sometimes she sees her unborn children in his eyes.

Let us go to the banks of the ocean
Where the walls rise above the Zuider Zee.
Long ago, I used to be a young man
And dear Margaret remembers that for me.

The Dutchman still wears wooden shoes,
His cap and coat are patched with the love
That Margaret sewed there.
Sometimes he thinks he's still in Rotterdam.

And he watches the tug-boats down canals
An' calls out to them when he thinks he knows the Captain.
Till Margaret comes
To take him home again

Through unforgiving streets that trip him, though she holds his arm,
Sometimes he thinks he's alone and he calls her name.

Let us go to the banks of the ocean
Where the walls rise above the Zuider Zee.
Long ago, I used to be a young man
And dear Margaret remembers that for me.

The winters whirl the windmills 'round
She winds his muffler tighter
And they sit in the kitchen.
Some tea with whiskey keeps away the dew.

And he sees her for a moment, calls her name,
She makes the bed up singing some old love song,
A song Margaret learned
When it was very new.

He hums a line or two, they sing together in the dark.
The Dutchman falls asleep and Margaret blows the candle out.

Let us go to the banks of the ocean
Where the walls rise above the Zuider Zee.
Long ago, I used to be a young man
And dear Margaret remembers that for me.


Ciao for now