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There was a West Corkonian man...

Brendan Flood, from Dalkey, Co Dublin, rewrote the lyrics of the traditional Irish-Australian ballad ‘The Wild Colonial Boy’ as a tribute to Dr Aidan MacCarthy, and, in June 2017, sent them to Adrienne and NIki MacCarthy.  

     A member of the Dalkey Active Retirement Association, Brendan wrote: ‘Recently, I read of the truly remarkable life led by Dr Aidan. We had been given a task to write a song, libretto, etc. The enclosed was my effort, The Ballad of Aidan MacCarthy. It was well received at our reading and the suggestion was made that  I should copy it to your good selves.’

* From left: D F and Julia McCarthy,
D F in later life, Aidan and Kathleen on their wedding day in 1948, and Niki and Adrienne new in the world.

There was a West Corkonian man, MacCarthy was his name

A native of Berehaven, a town of sailing fame

He was his mother’s only son, his father’s pride and joy

So to the woods of Clongowes went – the West Corkonian boy


At the youthful age of 17 he went to UCC

He qualified at 25 with a medical degree

There were no jobs in ’39 in Ireland due to war

So off to England he did go to join the Flying Corps


They packed him off to La Belle France for action he did thirst

The Germans pushed them back to sea in a port they call Dunkirk

He got aboard a boat with men all broken, tired and hurt

A U-boat then torpedoed them and tossed them in the surf


He tended to the injured, the dying and the burnt

The badly damaged small boat it did remain afloat

Through gale force 8 in Dover Strait continued with his work

They reached the shore and thanked once more the wizard doc
from Cork


Returned to base, another case of heroism rose

A mighty sound was heard around, a homeward bomber chose

To land that night, had lost its flight before its engine blows

It split in two, its wings askew, a victim of its foes


Without a care Aidan did dare to dash into the wreck

To rescue crew before bombs blew and sent them all to heck

This act so brave that he did save lives and then did forge

His name in fame amid acclaim – prestigious medal George


He then went east but met a beast as he left Singapore

Sumatra bound, was quickly found by Japanese who bore

No love for Brits who pit their wits in camps to stay alive

They did there savour, the force of labour and cruelty survive


Three years he spent in Java camps, no end in sight to see

The prisoners all were rounded up and put collectively

Into a ship which failed to slip by Americans at sea

Hit by a shell into the swell, internees now were free

Left there to drown MacCarthy found a piece of wood debris

Against the sky it caught his eye, a trawler boat of three

They heard his pleas, were Japanese, these farmers of the sea

They took him home across the foam to base – Nagasaki

March ’45 he was still alive in camps of forced labour

Marines, US, and then God bless, a tip-off from a neighbour

‘Look to the sky and if you spy a jetstream run for cover’

He made a dash, a mighty flash, and then the war was over


A dreadful dearth, in this scorched earth, of any creature living

The blister’s pain, mixed with black rain, it was the devil’s bidding

Although quite frail, he did not fail to tender to the sick

Post atom bomb, with great aplomb, the victims he did fix


The prisoners free, with vengeful glee began to kill the guards

MacCarthy, doc, got quite a shock, he saw them all as cowards

The camp CO he hid and so his murder did prevent

With his life saved, the CO gave his sword as a present


The next three years, mid toil and tears, he earned an OBE

A London home, no more to roam, set up a surgery

In National Health there was no wealth but he was quite happy

At 81, to the setting sun, last words – ‘I was lucky’


Brendan Flood, 2017

The Ballad of Aidan MacCarthy (to the traditional air of ‘The Wild Colonial Boy’)

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