We've Always been







Thu, Mar


By Johnny b Broderick

I met Tom Doherty in Aillwee on a cold damp October day in the company of Sean Keane and Joe Queally, we were meeting to discuss having a concert in the cave for the RNLI. The sun broke through the cloud cover to shine down on the magnificent panorama stretching across the Burren sweeping down to Galway Bay and beyond to Connemara. And then just as quick,  it was gone, but it stayed long enough for me to pause and take it in. Like life it can be fleeting, and for Tom he witnessed that as much as any, and maybe too much for one man. Everything about the man oozes gentleness and empathy. His soft spoken Clare accent with the deliberate task to put you at ease, no airs, nor graces, a humble man comfortable in his own skin.

Tom does not divulge much about himself or what he does as any strong silent type, it's about the action, the example and having a place within himself to retreat to for inner strength. We were there on the invitation of Joe Queally who is not at all shy about talking about his sea faring friend. Joe tells me about the peril of steering the Doolin lifeboat in beneath the famous Cliffs of Moher to retrieve a body at the base of the cliffs with the fear that a freak wave will ram them up against the cliff wall. In 2017 Tom made eight such journeys of grief, eight families torn and submerged into a powerful feeling of hopelessness, some even came to watch from the cliff top as the skilled and empathic man takes their relation from the froth of the Atlantic waves. I listened to Mary on Today with Sean O'Rourke  where she describes the relief when she found out that is was Tom who was taking her precious son Niall from the rocks, Mary knew he (her son) would be retrieved with care and love.

Even in the dismay of darkness people find comfort in little things, in Tom's  case deliberate things. In another instance Tom went to retrieve a young girl who could not bare this life anymore, she took her Teddy with her on the tragic journey. When Tom lifted her beautiful body from the ravishes of the powerful Atlantic the teddy popped up from under her, with swift thought and action Tom went back for the Teddy. Empathy in action and no words needed.

Tom has retrieved over 100 people from the sea in his lifetime, A hundred families that have the chance to go through the five stages of grief and finally reach acceptance, without a place of final rest, acceptance is difficult to find.
 I spoke to Tom about his motivation and his volition to go back to that dark place and how he can handle the grief, how can he overcome the hopelessness.
Like himself his answers were grounded and simple and very much about the families of the fallen. We all need a grave to visit, a body to mourn, a funeral to unleash the pain among friends and even for a few days the burden shared.

As I spoke to Tom the seeds of a song were beginning to root in the few brain cell that I have, lines like humble people bringing people home. Hearts of steel,and heroes that don't want to be heroes, and the realisation that all these men and women who give voluntary  for the lifeboats are someone's sons or daughter. How easy it is for them to become the lost as they search for the lost. But above all when you talk to people like Joe and Tom you can hear their upmost respect for the water, and we spoke about that and how so many deaths at sea or in the water comes from lack of respect.

I told Tom as we parted ways that I wanted to write a song about him and all the people involved in rescue.
In his very present humble way he said "sure what would you have to write about"
My brother Iggy put the music to it and Sean Keane did the rest in his own unique style. Paddy Jordan and Pat Coyne wove their magic in the recording studio.
I described the emotion to Kevin Glynn of Bigideafilms and the video for the song was born. With the help of Tony Hiney from RNLI we were able to film Sean with the crew of Aran Lifeboat and the people of Aran.
The video and single were released on Friday 9th  of February in conjunction with a concert in the base of Aillwee Cave. Our gratitude to all that attended and a big thanks to Nuala, Ricky, and Susan for their cooperation in making this concert a very unique experience.
Since our first meeting Tom has been nominated for Rehab Local Hero person of the year award.

The following is the lyrics of the song:
Heroes of the Waters

They leave the comfort of their homes
Volunteers in full flight
Common folk with a common goal
Face white horses day or night
With minds of steel and hearts
As brave as any sons or daughters
Humble souls to bring people home
They are heroes of the waters

Heroes of the waters
Are someone's sons or daughters
Who have no desire to be
Heroes of the sea
Heroes of the waters

They put their own lives  on hold
And forge into the unknown
With one golden rule respect
for the waters always shown
With only minutes on their side
From the moment they respond
Rescue is their driving force
their unifying bond

heroes of the waters
Are someone's sons and daughters
Who have no desire to be
heroes of sea
Heroes of the waters

So when you use the rollin rivers
Our pretty lakes or  seas
Or stroll along the silvery strands
All they ask is please
Respect the ever changing tides
Respect the power of the water
And remember when you call for help
You are calling someone's son or daughter

The heroes of the waters
Are someone's  sons or daughters
Who have no desire to be
heroes of the sea
Heroes of the waters

Link to Song

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