John Dos Passos Visits Rockall

My grandfather’s memoirs, The Best Times, always has surprises in store, even on my 44th reading (I don’t know how many readings I’m up to at this point, but it’s a high number). In spring 1928, Dos Passos first sighted the mythical granite island of Rockall during steam passage across the North Atlantic to Copenhagen. “We passed near enough to feel the groundswell and to hear the growl of the surf. The rock rose, tall as the biggest ocean liner, in reddish slate cliffs that tapered into peaks, white with bird-droppings as a high mountain is with snow. Gulls and gannets whirled about it in an endlessly screaming cloud.”

In this short passage, I can hear his love of the sea and maritime culture.

I’ve never seen Rockall, but I was delighted to learn of its folklore a couple years ago, when I discovered the Irish folk song, “Rock on, Rockall,” by The Wolfe Tones.