December 11, 2008

George Tanner meets Jim Tolstrup

There are still more adventures to unfold for you here, but the truth is I've been back in Fremantle for a couple of weeks now and the intensity of re-adjustment has my writing temporarily stymied. I can feel myself slowly catching up to myself - so, I'll return to the story soon, I promise.

Part of catching-up has entailed re-reading a number of emails that arrived during my travels. With often dodgy internet connection, I was only able to give many of them the most cursory glance (and no follow-up) - including one that came from Jim in early September. He sent a copy of the song lyrics he wrote for our great-great-great grandfather, George Tanner. They're really quite wonderful. This is the very song Jim sang for me, for his new Irish friends (and for our ancestors) on Tara Hill. Here they are:

George Tanner’s Lament
Oh my name is George Tanner from Ireland I come
Escaping from hunger with my wife and my young sons
With one inspiration in our hearts and our minds
The hope of a good life leaving sorrows behind

Well we lived for a while way up in Portland Maine
But after a while long we were moving again
We come down to East Boston with one thought in mind
To look for a good life leaving sorrows behind

Now Boston’s a fine town and they call it “The Hub”
But it’s “No Dogs or Irish” in all of the pubs
And an Irishman’s wages are meager you’ll find
When you look for a good life leaving sorrows behind

Young George, James and William fought in the Civil War
For a country that’ll take us is worth fighting for
Homeless and hungry and what did we find?
America’s sorrows leaving sorrow behind

Then we wandered so long we forgot whence we came
We forgot our green country, forgot our own name
Though we’re no longer hungry we lost ties that bind
us to good life leaving sorrows behind

I would ask my grandmother but she’s many years gone
But I feel she’s still near when I’m singing this song
And her memory’s imprinted on my heart and mind
She’s gone to a good life leaving sorrows behind
After many long years I’m returning once more
To taste all the joys and the grief our folks bore
To feed their hungry spirits and for my own to find
I come looking for a good life leaving sorrows behind

But now the Earth’s changing, the water and air
Old grievances don’t matter if there’s no future there
When we care for all beings and learn to be kind
Then we’ll find a good life and leave sorrow behind


Jim Tolstrup said...

Hmm, that hair-line looks awfully familiar.

Jim Tolstrup said...

Christmas Eve, it's bitterly cold here in Colorado but still I like walking amongst the cottonwood trees by the Cache la Poudre River. In the cold and shadowy forest the past seems closer and I have been thinking a lot about old George Tanner. I wonder what it must have been like as a child in Cork, Ireland, during the worst of the famine years. Regardless of the resources the family may have had, people were dying in droves around them and it must have been miserable, then escaping that only to fight in the bloodiest battles of America’s Civil War. I pray that none of ever live to see such terrible times, it all makes the current recession look like a hiccup. I hope George Tanner and Sarah Hoban found joy in their married life and in their children and wherever the ancestors go I hope they are happy now.

Chris Hardesty said...
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