17 March 2010

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig/ Happy Saint Patrick's Day

A less traditional poem for St. Patricks Day, but one that reminds me where I am from. A poem about Harland and Wolff in Belfast, that built the Titanic, and two of my favourite 'Irish' songs by two of my favourite Irish performers.

Once there was a community here: steeped in tradition as old as the sea.
Now wild grass blooms in perpetuity, growing through the pavements of yesteryear.
The spars of schooners speared the sky, Dockers worked amongst crates and bags,
Sailors searched for willing half-door hags, Beer and flesh were always easy to buy.

Aproned jarvies carted the gentry from drinking dens to Music Halls.
Carriages swept them to stately balls, Poor folk starved a plenty.
The crack of rivet-guns filled the air as cloth capped men on shipyard slips
transformed raw steel to majestic ships. The doomed Titanic germinated there.

Holy war would occasionally flare when neighbours killed for religious belief,
then nursed each other through times of grief, Church pews full and cupboards bare.
Cheeked by jowl, in stifled space, bombed by Hitler, they remained unbowed.
Honestly poor and stubbornly proud. Hope and optimism filled each face.

The lassies walked with the allied forces; fighting men with honeyed tongues
kissed girls with flax or tobacco lungs. Mills and factories were the deadly sources.
Once there was a community there: a teeming humanity came and went.
Death could be brutal but heaven sent when the burden came to much to bear.

Now commuter trains speed above my head, Hovercrafts fly with passengers and freight.
Only the vermin and birds procreate... in a district that's virtually people dead.
My roots and beginnings are in this place.
All that I am, or ever hope to be was fashioned on ground once home to me:
It's premature death a bureaucratic disgrace.

Keep its memory alive in the salt of each tear. Remember each baby, each bridegroom, each bride.
Exalt their existence with reverence and pride.
Never forget: once there was a community here.

by John Campbell.


  1. Happy St Patricks Day from the non Irish half of Considered Design

  2. Happy to see you both on St. Patrick's Day!
    Lovely poem, and who doesn't love "Dirty Old Town"?

  3. Lovely seeing you too Janis, from what I remember! :-(


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