Sleeve notes

Sleeve Notes for “black n blue”

Gentle Hands – In 2014 I happened upon a great folk (contemporary acoustic) music session which was running in the Strand Hotel in Dugort on Achill Island every Friday night at that time. I am glad to say that over the years I grew to love Dugort and have become friends with the mainstays of that session. They are Liam Donnelly, Padraig McCaul, Gabriel Egan, Dermot Maguire, Sean (Swifty) Swift and the late Dudley Herbert (RIP).

                                       Gentle Hands


There’s a guy down at the Strand Hotel, he sings “Baker Street”

With a saxophone like a rocket through the sky

We sat out on the deck, we were drinking wine and porter

And with every song we were getting high


We were arguing about Moving Hearts and climate change

And football, oh! for better or for worse

And the moon rose over Cruinneog mountain

We were there in the centre of the universe.


Scatter my ashes on the Silver Strand

Wave good bye from the pier

Thank the Lord for today and those we’ve met along the way

And those gentle hands that brought us here.


Tom Paxton, Tom Waits and Tom T Hall

The Rockin’ Roll Kids, and Ralph McTell

“Homeward Bound” and “No Regrets”

And “The Sultans” and “Romeo and Juliet”



A song can make a restless heart uneasy

A song can cause a restless heart to roam

A song can make a lonely heart more lonely

But tonight it was just like coming home


(repeat last line)


You Never Told Me – When Matteo Cullen called round to me one September evening as my garden and the countryside in general looked their best, the first words from his mouth on his arrival were “You never told me you lived in Paradise”. Now! what do you do when a friend presents you with a poetic gift like that ……………….

               You Never Told Me


You never told me you lived in Paradise

Where the blossom of blackthorn blows like Easter snow

Where the gold of the evening lights the bend in the river

You never told me, was I never meant to know


Was this your secret to hold onto forever

To keep you from sinking if your boat should run aground

Or was this your lighthouse to guide you through the weather

Safe home to the harbour, to touch the holy ground


 Is this where you run to when the world is full of thunder

Is this where you run to when they say you’re for the birds

Is this where you run to, to rest and to recover

Among the hedgerows and the flowers

In your garden full of words


I keep on searching for the centre of the circle

You keep on drifting like a cloud across the skies

I kept on wondering, how a soul could be so gentle

But you never told me, you lived in Paradise


(Chorus followed by bridge)

And if they say that a petal is just like a syllable

Then a flower is surely a word

And a garden it is a gospel

Waiting to be heard


I keep on searching for the centre of the circle

You keep on drifting like a cloud across the skies

I kept on wondering, how a soul could be so gentle

But you never told me, you lived in Paradise

You never told me

…    …..      ….     ..

©DOConnor 2019.

It’s Raining in Grimsby – A few weeks before I got married I was doing some gigs in the north of England. Driving from one in Grimsby to another in Barnsley this song hopped out. 

                         It’s  Raining in Grimsby


It’s raining in Grimsby on a grey Monday morning

But the roses are blooming down along Weelsby Road

And my heart is dancing with this roving and rambling

And knowing you love me and that soon we’ll be wed.


It’s raining in Grimsby on a grey Monday morning

The city is yawning wiping sleep from her eyes

But my heart is singing all the songs of last evening

Steady I’m learning that only love is the prize.


But we simplify things and we summarize things

We generalise things, just to make ourselves clear

But I see love clearly, every time you are near me

Nothing will scare me, knowing you’re there.


It’s raining in Grimsby but the world is still turning

And my heart is burning with embers of gold

With the comfort of knowing that our love has been growing

Like the roses all blooming down along Weelsby Road.

Chorus (and repeat the last line x 2) 


Love is Stronger than Stone – Close to where I live there is an old ruined cottage which is little more than a pile of stones. But every July it explodes into a riot of what are now wild white roses. I’ve always thought that the roses want to tell us of the love that once lived in that house. It was to this notion, that love never really dies, that I went to when I needed to write a song for my sister when we lost her in 2012.

                 Love is Stronger than Stone

There’s a house in the hollow and it’s all tumbled down

And the chimney has fallen and the timbers long gone

And the gable has crumbled where the ivy has grown

But a thousand white roses grow up from the stone

And those roses tell stories if you stand for awhile

Of a time that knew tenderness and lives that knew toil

And a house that knew kindness and fields that knew joy

So they planted these roses to tell passers-by 


Love is stronger than stone, Love lives longer than flesh and bone

And though its song is gentle but once that seed is sown

Love grows stronger than stone

And the thatch once was golden and the walls once were white

And the windows were diamonds on a cold starry night

‘Til the kids left like teardrops as they each sailed away

But each carried a prayer, a prayer that would say


And every time I pass by here it’s like someone calls your name

Because the lesson from those roses and from you is just the same

Because you’ve taught me all that’s meaningful and you’ve taught me all that’s true

But the greatest lesson ever learned, I learned from you



The Cuckoo Valley – When Liam Donnelly and his wife Angie moved into their new house in the Cuckoo Valley close to Dugort village on Achill Island I could not decide what to get them as a house warming present, so I wrote them this song.

                                  The Cuckoo Valley


I wish I was in the Cuckoo Valley

Along the old bog road that I’ve been dreaming of

With the yellow furze and the snow white lily

Arm and arm with the one I love.


I wish I was a brave sea caption,

On the ocean deep with a gallant crew

We’d sail this schooner down to South Australia

Just to turn about and sail home to you  


I wish I was an old banjo picker

With a long grey beard and dungarees of blue

I’d play those tunes with my work worn fingers

And every tune I’d play, I’d play for you



And all I have are the songs I sing you

On a Friday night down in the Strand Hotel

I sing those songs sweet as the bird in spring do

But I love you more than any song can tell.

                     Chorus x 2.


The Setting – One night, a few years ago I became a “stage door johnnie” and waited on after a Ralph McTell concert in Sligo in the hope of meeting him. I did meet him and we spoke about some of his songs particularly those with Irish influences like “Clare to Here” and “Mr Connaughton”. He suggested that his song “The Setting” was another that he felt was Irish. It is a beautiful song and I hope I do it justice here on this live recording. Ralph was even more charming, friendly and warm than I had hoped. I went home kicking stones.

Perfect Rhythm and Rhyme – Back when one could have two pints and drive, I used to go to town for my constitutional Sunday evening two pints. On one such evening I came across a beautiful sight in the Moylurg Inn. Despite a very rowdy crowd gathered round the telly watching a football game I noted, in a quieter corner, a not so young couple filling and refilling the jukebox and then waltzing away privately to the music. When I got home my wife recognised them from my description and could tell me that their romance was quite new. I should’ve picked that up myself but didn’t. It was still beautiful.

Perfect Rhythm and Rhyme


They were watching the game at the front of the bar

They were wild and excited and tense

There were men playing darts in the corner

And a card game about to commence

And some were cocked lathered and shaven

In their Sunday best, out for the day

Some looked like a fright after Saturday Night

And some of them just looked away


When Oliver beckoned to Jenny

And they filled up the jukebox once more

And they stood hand in hand for the strike of the band

And then gently they took to the floor

To the words of the “Voice of an Angel”

And that whiney old steel guitar sound

They got lost in the din of the old Moylurg Inn

As if nobody else was around


And he held her, like she was his flower

Like they were on fire, like it was their time

And they twirled and they glided and all sadness subsided

When their two hearts collided, in perfect rhythm and rhyme.


Now he carried the scars of hard livin’

She carried a heart ache or two

Both carried that sad resignation

That a true love might never come true

But they met as the Gods had conspired

In the Autumn time of the year

When both were all worn out and tired

That spark of romance did appear

                             Chorus + repeat last line 


This River was Mine –Back in 2013 I spent a great hour with my uncle, a retired priest, along the banks of the Camlin River in Longford town where he was born and raised. For that hour he was alive with love for his younger days.

                       This River was Mine

There’s a river that flows by the house of my father

Where a bridge crosses over that leads into the town

And when the winter wind blows it roars out like a monster

On the bright summers morning it sparkles like a pond

This was the place where I first saw the sunlight

These are the wild flower that spoke to me of spring

This is the tree that turned my eyes towards heaven

And this the river that called on me to dream


So won’t you help my Lord

Won’t you help me to remember

This special place and that precious time

All along the banks

With my three fine brothers

When I was a boy

And this river was mine

Me and my friend we made sailing ships from paper

We ran like the wind to keep up in the race

We were full to the gunnels with dreams of wild adventure

Bound for the ocean the wild world to embrace

But on down the road callings came to answer

My brothers would marry and have family to rear

And I’d take my vows before His Holy Alter

That I’d preach his word and the Holy Cloth I’d wear


We road on the wind to answer to the calling

We scattered like dust to the corners of the earth

And the greatest of stories was ours for the telling

And I told that story for all that I was worth

But some in our number they lost sight of their station

They played with the rich and the preyed upon the poor

And it spread like a plague through the corridors of silence

‘til all things lay broken like driftwood on the shore

This was my life some might say a dream in tatters

But I knew God’s love and had good friends to lean upon

And I tell you now if it ever even matters

That I carried that love from the place where I came from


©DOConnor 2019

Maggie in the Pouring Rain – On a particularly blustery wet morning I watched from a distance as an elderly lady struggled down Ross Lane. Despite her difficulty negotiating the wind she had a composure and a sort of dignity about her that impressed me. I wondered if I should drive to her and offer her a lift or would that steal away her own efforts to make progress. Then the penny dropped…. It was my mother. I was with her in a flash.

                 Maggie in the Pouring Rain

I saw Maggie in the pouring rain

With her headscarf on walking down the lane

If I wait ‘til she comes back again

I’ll be a lucky man


Oh Maggie don’t look forlorn

I’ve been loving you since I’ve been born

And if I can hold you safe and warm

I’ll be a lucky man

I’ll be a lucky man

I saw Maggie on a day in spring

And it smiling made the small bird sing

And if such joy to her I’d bring

I’d be a lucky man


I saw Maggie in the summer sun

More beautiful than anyone

And if away with me she’d come

I’d be a lucky man


I saw Maggie at the harvest time

Though aging beauty still looked fine

I said sit with me Maggie have a glass of win

And I’ll be a lucky man


I saw Maggie on a winters day

And it seemed her mind was gone astray

I said sit with me Maggie and we’ll find our way

And I’ll be a lucky man


I saw Maggie in the dead of night

Wipe my brow by candle light

She said “All your troubles ‘re goin’ to be alright”

And you’ll be a lucky man



Cruising – Driving to Achill once in a small soft top Mazda with a guitar jammed in behind the driver’s seat we cruised through the beautiful scenery of the west of Ireland.


Cruising with the top down taking in the sun

Cruising on the west road the weekend’s just begun

The purple mountain and the sea of blue

There is no better place for me and you

Cruising with the top down taking in the view

I’ve been working and I’m weary, feeling black and blue

But the golden sunsets and the Silver Strand

There is no better place to walk hand in hand

Cruising with the top down the wind is in your hair

We could be in Carolina but I’d rather be right here

The signing mountain streams and the rolling tide

There is no better place to walk side by side


The Sperm Song – Some years ago I heard an intriguing interview on Mary Wilson’s Radio 1 “Drivetime” programme. She was interviewing a scientist who had discovered a way of producing sperm cells from stem cells. Knowing that this does not auger well for the male of the species this is my spiteful response.         

                              The Sperm Song

Here’s a story you should know I heard it on the radio

About six or seven months ago and it cut me to the chore

This tale of gender and of sex knocked me for twenty to the decks

When they announced with last respects that manhood is no more

A million men called out in fear “Hey ! What’s the bloody story here,

What are the reasons they declare for severing our term

Oh ‘cause some oul’ geezer in some lab whose life in terminally drab

Successfully has made a stab at making homemade sperm

So women folk need us no more they’ve turfed us all out through the door

And scotched the reason we’re made for, we’re conjugally bunched

Our dignity is on its ass, what woman sought has come to pass

Our manliness it is alas testicularly crunched

So no more stags and no more cocks and no more big grandfather clocks

No more transvestites wearing frocks and no more cowboy boot

No trumpet blast at early morn no tinkling on the oul’ French Horn

And all the trad boys look forlorn ‘cause definitely no flutes.

With implications we must face this evolutionary disgrace

Man will expire without a trace, a sad tale to report

So bras and knickers everywhere and perfume fragrance in the air

But Mrs. Murphy’s turning queer for the want of an oul’ court

And bitchiness is on the rise and shopping sprees and spas likewise

And acupuncture for your eye, fake jewellery for your wrist

Oh but when the big fat lady sings, ye burnt your bras for better things

Than pedicures and sunbed flings, ‘tis then you’ll get the jist.

So as the days of man decline and the earths completely feminine

There’s one small issue down the line in this female world we’ve made

‘cause some day you might investigate procedures used to copulate

‘ Tis then perhaps you’ll contemplate that you’ll never more get laid