A poetic tribute to John de Courcy Ireland

John de Courcy Ireland was a beloved maritime historian and political activist who did much in his long career to promote and preserve Ireland’s maritime heritage. The following poem, written in tribute to John de Courcy Ireland, is by talented poet and author Daniel Wade from Dublin.


John de Courcy Ireland

by Daniel Wade

Ma quando disse: “Lascia lui e varca;
5ché qui è buono con l’ali e coi remi,
quantunque può, ciascun pinger sua barca;”
– Dante, Purgatorio, Canto 12, lines 4-6

Yours was the first low cadence of tides,
A rusted bawley now sent to the breakers. Who
Could follow you through soused everglades,
Your phantom still set on cataloguing the slew
Of uncharted alts, death-crooning mermaids?

And now the salty wonder-pill pushes away
The database of names you’d so fussily gathered,
Registries of men scuttled and unsung, the etymology
Of barnacled weather-rail and waving oleander,
The cut-glass Atlantic, washed fodder for history.

You organised Dun Laoghaire lifeboat station
Like a man aloft, standing watch for a glimpse
Of reef or risk, good and lost in the mirror-like ocean
Whose urges you knew to exalt. The oily lamps
Kindle half-measured miles, inked into a margin

Of your silver memory. This pebbly ledge
Whitens at dusk. The oarlock’s twirling glance
Acts on your hand’s biding, your ultimate voyage
Too far off for gales to gag your response
To our common and ignored heritage.

We islanders, oblivious to the cold blue element
That is needed and fuels our need, have dove
Past the porpoise’s inshore library, the green ferment
In an appendix of anemone, a luminous sea-cave

Immersed in plain-texts of sand, the acrostic hunt
For bass or mackerel flavouring our hook.
Your headstone, if you had one, would face the coast
As pilgrims face Mecca, no matter how deeply brooked,

How deeply moored in soil you’d be. An offshore gust,
Hard as the fact, bestows on us neither a look-
Out’s clarity nor strength enough to bear
The burden forecast or the grey churn
Of a maelstrom, our blindness made clear
To the global sea that binds nation to nation,

As you had always declared.
Your Argentinan hills bristle with uncut cypresses
And her dissolving sky, with scuppers of cloud,
Rams the rolling swish that calmed you, redresses
An anchor feted with the shame of rust and seaweed;
You are bound homeward, yet willing your mind always
To frigid depths where prosperity may yet be trawled.

© Daniel Wade, 2016.


About the Author

Daniel Wade is a 24-year-old poet and author from Dublin, Ireland. He is a graduate of Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology, where he studied English and Journalism. His poetry has been published in Optic, Limerick Revival, Wordlegs (e-publication), The Stony Thursday Book (ed. Paddy Bushe), HeadSpace Magazine, the Seven Towers 2014 Census, the Bray Arts Journal, The Sea (charity anthology in aid of the RNLI), Sixteen Magazine (e-publication), The Bogman’s Cannon, Iodine Poetry Journal, The Runt, Zymbol Magazine, FLAR 17 and the Hennessey New Irish Writers’ page of the Irish Times. He has also featured as a guest on Dublin South FM’s Rhyme and Reason poetry program, as well as on Near FM’s Writer’s Block and Irish Hearts on IRI.

In June 2015, his radio drama, ‘The Outer Darkness’, was broadcast on Dublin South FM. A prolific performer, he has also read his work at various festivals, including the Electric Picnic, Body and Soul, Noeliefest and the West Belfast Festival. In March 2016,  his first play for theatre ‘The Collector’ was staged as a rehearsed reading in the New Theatre.

For more information and to contact Daniel check out his website danielwadeauthor.com

About the Author

Ann Robinson
Has a passion for coastal heritage and maritime history. Loves sharing the best of the Irish coast online. Contact me ann@coastmonkey.ie or follow me on Twitter @AnnRobinson22