Woman's last ride down Pequot inspires former state troubadour

Buy Photo Peter Huoppi/The Day Norwich singer/songwriter Tom Callinan performs Thursday at Beechwood Manor in New London. Callinan recently wrote "I Want to Go Down Pequot Avenue One More Time'' about a woman's last wish for a carriage ride down the New London street after seeing a story in The Day.

New London - The story of a New London woman who, as part of her final wishes, wanted her casket to ride down Pequot Avenue in a horse-drawn carriage aroused the Irish in Tom Callinan and inspired him to write a song.

Callinan, who was named the first State Troubadour in 1991, sat down last week after hearing about Josephine Pollio's last ride on Feb. 5 and wrote "I Want to Go Down Pequot Avenue One More Time.''

"I'm such a sucker for horse-drawn carriages anyway,'' he said. "My family was agrarian farmers in Ireland, and dairy farmers here. ... The story just hit all the right buzzers for me."

Pollio, an 87-year-old New London resident, had made her funeral arrangements 16 years ago. She picked out a blue casket and asked that the funeral home hire a horse and cart for a trip along the Thames River. She also asked that snacks be provided for the horse, which turned out to be Gus, a Percheron draft horse.

"Gus is taking me out for one last carriage-ride, Down Pequot Avenue, to enjoy the lovely view,'' the song begins.

"The clip-clop on the pavement and the creaking of the wheels, Even though it's not the 'Gilded Age,' I feel so damned genteel," is the refrain.

"I didn't want to write anything maudlin,'' Callinan said. "I thought it was such a positive experience.''

Pollio's daughter, Anna Culbertson, was unaware of the song but was delighted when told her mother's last wish was being immortalized in music.

"That sounds so wonderful,'' she said.

Callinan left a CD at St. Mary's Church for Culbertson to pick up.

He was at his home in Norwich battling bronchitis when he read in The Day about Pollio's last ride.

"The story was fabulous,'' he said. "It hit a key spot and opened up the muse in me. She poured out. It was like a volcano."

He pulled out his guitar and a clarinet he hadn't played in years, and wrote the song.

Callinan, who has released 15 CDs and is working on one with a War of 1812 theme, performed the song at a Valentine's Day party Thursday at Beechwood Manor in New London.

He had performed the ditty for the first time earlier this week for senior citizens in Waterford.

"They started singing along,'' he said. "It's very nice when that happens."

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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