Rossnowlagh – The story behind the song
After years of singing other peoples’ compositions, the advent of my first self-written song took me somewhat by surprise. I had always steadfastly refused to even think of putting pen to paper, being convinced that “it had all been said before, and much better!”
In June of 2001, just before my first CD “McOne” was released, I went to Ireland for a holiday with my sisters, Maureen and Cathy. Maureen had been lucky enough to borrow a quite luxurious caravan (mobile home) with a panoramic view of Mullaghmore Bay, Co. Sligo, from some very generous friends of hers. So we settled into a comfortable threesome and had a great week, driving all over the place, cooking together and playing hilarious card games in the evenings.
A couple of days before our very reluctant departure, Maureen mentioned that Rossnowlagh had been a favourite haunt of my parents, Ruby and Ernie, now both no longer with us. Whenever they could manage to get away, they drove from Belfast to Co. Donegal and took a picnic lunch to the beach. So, in memory of those two very special people, we packed our own picnic lunch and took off.
It was quite late in the afternoon of a chilly, windy, Atlantic June day, but that didn’t detract from the wondrous sight of Rossnowlagh’s mile-long sandy beach, sheltered on both sides by low hills. It was deserted except for a couple of kids in swimsuits, braving the nippy air and laughing their heads off as they dashed in and out of the waves and a lone biker on a Harley who rode back and forth, playing loud country music over his bike’s speaker system.
We went for a long walk, sometimes linking arms, sometimes moving apart to be alone with our own thoughts – I started picking up colourful shells, Maureen and Cathy followed suit and suddenly we had pockets, hands and plastic bags full. They sit now in a glass bowl on my work table.
At some point, the clouds shifted sending sunny shafts along the beach and across the waves and it was as if I had entered a perfect blessed moment, a feeling of being absolutely at the right place at the right time. I glanced at my sisters, each alone with their own moment and knew it was the same for them too – no words were necessary, just being together on that June day on Rossnowlagh beach was enough.
I think I must have been already inspired by the fact of being in “Yeats’ country” and I started struggling with what I thought would be a nice little poem to recite to Maureen and Cathy over our nightly card game: Gradually the words started forming in my mind – “Rossnowlagh, your waves came rolling in, a roaring sound that washed my ears of all that city din, Rossnowlagh, shells scattered on your sand, I feel my soul at peace at last in someone’s loving hand, Rossnowlagh”
They loved it, of course, and when I came back to Germany to prepare for my CD launch, a flash of an idea hit me that it would be a great surprise for “the girls” if I set it to music and sang it on the big night. The melody came to me all at once, along with a “bridge” so I sang it unaccompanied onto a tape for my good friend Werner who did a lovely simple guitar accompaniment for it.
The song has been through many changes since then and in March, my genius friend Martin did an arrangement for piano, guitar and vocals which we recorded “on the hop” just before I set off for my trip to India.
But in the end, it’s a song about being somewhere beautiful with people you love and awarefully experiencing a brief but unforgettable moment of perfection.