Reading My Way Around the World

Tuesday 15 August 2017

The White Beach

The story behind the song

The coast of each country usually belongs to the Crown or the government, so we were really surprised years back when a very wealthy landowner near here closed off access to parts of the beach making it impossible to walk past his estate.   He gradually bought up more and more of the shore, shutting off access as he went.

One of these areas was known as the White Beach and was accessed via a lane from the main road which passed a wetland field, known locally as the Pond Field, and you came out onto a headland called the Moat, to get onto this piece of beach.  I had only ever walked on it a couple of times, but a few years ago we were heading down for a walk and were met with a huge barbed wire fence.

So a local campaign started to get it opened up again. However the wealthy man, in the style of landowners of old, just hired plenty of lawyers and kept the case open in the courts hoping people would run out of steam.   Eventually though, the case was won by the people and he agreed to a compromise, to build an extra walkway.

Now in the middle of this a couple of things happened - we wrote a song about people's memories of summer picnics there; sang it at the festival and got a good response to it, but had decided not to really rant about this man's involvement, only that it was no longer open to the public.  A few months later we decided, as the court case was coming up, to just go for it and have a good old folkie rant about injustice and so on.

But, just as we finished it the man in question died - in a horrible helicopter accident - and no matter what people thought of him and his ways before hand, no-one, including ourselves, were prepared to talk ill of the dead.

Anyway, we finally finished it and recorded it a few years back, leaving out blame and just making it into a nostalgic ballad about a place rather than a landlord .... enough of those stories have been told in Ireland over the years.

I'd love to know what you think of the story... Here are the lyrics.

The White Beach (Campbell/McFarland)
The story of an event that happened near us, where people were up in arms that the local landlord had closed off access to a favourite beach

Walking by the sea today
I wandered back in time
I can still recall my father’s hand
Holding on to mine
And the first time that he took me
To a hidden piece of shore
That his own father showed to him
Many years before

He told me lots of stories
from the time he was a lad
About family summer Sundays
with the picnics on the strand
And about the Yankee soldiers
that stayed there in the war
Who danced at Ballyedmond and walked with sweethearts on the shore

And he said
“Walk with me to the white beach
And we'll walk there one more time
Come and walk with me to the white beach
And I'll take your hand in mine
Come and walk with me to the white beach
Past the Pond Field on the way
We'll cross the moat together
Come and walk with me today”

Then he told me of the anger
when the landlord closed the way
And a fence was built around the Moat and the Pond Field drained away
He couldn’t understand
just how they failed to see
What the lovely White Beach
meant to you and me

Now I’m thinking of the white beach
In my mind’s eye I can see
That lonely stretch of strand
That holds such memories for m
And when I’m on a foreign shore
With children of my own
I’ll tell them of the White Beach
Close to my Rostrevor home.  
And I’ll say

Fro the CD Back There (2015)


  1. You gave me the Cd as a present when we met last year :) Thaaank you :) again! Nice to know the story behind the song, dear Fil, I really love it, but like you, I also don't like to talk ill of dead people, matter how they acted or whatsoever. True, some people think they can close beaches, but really, I would have liked sharing the beauty of a beach with people. The sea and sand are so relaxing and inspire to meditation and enlightment... I would like to share that, instead of keeping as a private beach. Lovely song and post, dear Fil, hope you are fine and sending you many hugs!

  2. Hi Fil - stunning music, song and story told. Loved it - really delightful ... what a great way to interpret life of the white beach - I hope now the inheritors kept it open ... I'll remember this - just sad, but so happy too with remembrances ... cheers Hilary


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