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In our eleven-year friendship with Jed Marum, we had many opportunities to perform with him, joining him onstage during his sets (and vice versa) culminating in the Celtic cruise we conducted in 2017. During those performances, a piece we loved to do with him was “Desolation Island” – his great song taken from the novel of the same name, the fifth historical-fiction novel in the Aubrey-Maturin series written by Patrick O’Brian. The song recounts only part of the novel – the thrilling battle between Aubrey’s “Leopard” and the 74-gun Dutch ship-of-the-line “Waakzaamheid”…

Lyrics

My name is Liam Devlin, in Galway I was born. In eighteen-hundred-seven to the English crown I was sworn. I sailed with Captain Aubrey in the prime of his bold career. A terror to all rival trade some say a privateer. With Cockney, Moore and Irish lads, we made a handsome crew. Our ship was called the Leopard, and her officers brave and true. Our strength at sea was matched by few and we made our way without fear. A terror to all rival trade some say a privateer. And low moans the wind, the cold Antarctic wind. Low moans the wind, the cold Antarctic wind.

We were well below the Southern Cross, and bound for Botany Bay with a score of Irish prisoners and the bounty sacked on the way. Sail ho, sail ho, the lookout cried, Three miles off to the larboard side. That’s when I feared we’d met our match - the Dutchman Waakzaamheid. And low moans the wind…

Well we turned and flew before the wind in a race straight toward the Pole. The Waakzaamheid was thrice our size, and her captain bold as our own. For four long days we ran from her ’til the mountainous seas grew high. That’s when I feared we’d met our match - the Dutchman Waakzaamheid. And low moans the wind…

Well the Dutchman closed to a thousand yards and let her cannons roar. We’d taken damage fore and aft, Captain Aubrey was wounded sore. But with one bless’d shot we smashed her mast and the Dutchman rolled hard on her beam, and with all brave hands she sank beneath the cold Antarctic sea. And low moans the wind…