A Swindon Town FC and Walter Tull Declamation

Let the living answer the roll call of the dead:
Walter Tull of Spurs and Northampton Town KIA 1918;

And now the names of the Robins:
Billy Brewer KIA 1914
Jim Chalmers KIA 1915
Ted Murphy died of head wounds 1916
Billy Kirby KIA 1917
Albert Milton KIA 1917

Arthur Beadsworth KIA 1917

Freddy Wheatcroft KIA1917

Names from another century come back to haunt us:
Walter, Billy, Jim, Ted, Billy, Albert, Arthur, Freddy,
Names once shouted over a football pitch,
‘Give it to Walter’,
‘Over here, Freddie,
‘Shoot, Billy’;

The imperatives of a football team
Replaced by new orders in khaki, with
Night patrols, barbed wire and machine guns;
Muddied football boots forgotten
In the trench foot fields of Flanders;
The clamour from the ground and stands
No match for whizz bangs, mortars and howitzers;
The fogs of a November match,
Innocent memories in a gas attack:

Let the living answer the roll call of the dead:
Walter Tull of Spurs and Northampton Town KIA 1918;

And now the names of the Robins:
Billy Brewer KIA 1914
Jim Chalmers KIA 1915
Ted Murphy died of head wounds 1916
Billy Kirby KIA 1917
Albert Milton KIA 1917

Arthur Beadsworth KIA 1917

Freddy Wheatcroft KIA1917

Names from another century come back to haunt us:
Walter, Billy, Jim, Ted, Billy, Albert, Arthur, Freddy,
Names once shouted over a football pitch,
‘Give it to Walter’,
‘Over here, Freddie,
‘Shoot, Billy’;

The imperatives of a football team
Replaced by new orders in khaki, with
Night patrols, barbed wire and machine guns;
Muddied football boots forgotten
In the trench foot fields of Flanders;
The clamour from the ground and stands
No match for whizz bangs, mortars and howitzers;
The fogs of a November match,
Innocent memories in a gas attack:

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The Famous Five, Windrush, Walter Tull and Enoch Powell

The Famous Five and Enoch Powell and Walter Tull

What an extraordinary coincidence,
That on the fiftieth anniversary
Of Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech,
Our railway stations should be awash
With ‘Five Go on Holiday’ GWR posters;
Four children – well adults really – and a dog,
Escaping to a whitewashed cottage,
In a West Country all white fastness,
Where BBC received pronunciation,
Snobbish condescension,
And lower class deference
Keep everyone in their place,
Abetted by kindly constables on the beat,
Who will willingly tell you the time.

The Famous Five and Enoch Powell and Walter Tull

What an extraordinary coincidence,
That on the fiftieth anniversary
Of Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech,
Our railway stations should be awash
With ‘Five Go on Holiday’ GWR posters;
Four children – well adults really – and a dog,
Escaping to a whitewashed cottage,
In a West Country all white fastness,
Where BBC received pronunciation,
Snobbish condescension,
And lower class deference
Keep everyone in their place,
Abetted by kindly constables on the beat,
Who will willingly tell you the time.

read more

Inprint Eulogy

The Inprint shop and building in the High Street in Stroud,
Resembles nothing so much as something out of Dickens,
An Old Curiosity Shop,
Defying straight lines of logic:
A seeming hexagonal structure,
With Wemmick-like turrets at the top;
The shop doorway on the corner at an angle,
With a fading palimpsest gable end advertisement
For something delicious and ‘home made’,
And a mysterious door numbered 31a,
That might – or might not- take us up flights of stairs,
Past so many Great Expectations,
And so to Mr. Wemmick’s castle up on high.

But far better than such an ascension,
Let us examine the shop windows:
Displays that follow the high ideals of public broadcasting,
Spectacles of books and comics and posters and maps,
All artfully and painstakingly arranged,
A tableau of colour and half-remembered past time,
A street mis en scene that arrests the eye,
And one which informs, educates and entertains,
A business that improves the mind of the passer-by,
As well as tempting the bibliophile;

The Inprint shop and building in the High Street in Stroud,
Resembles nothing so much as something out of Dickens,
An Old Curiosity Shop,
Defying straight lines of logic:
A seeming hexagonal structure,
With Wemmick-like turrets at the top;
The shop doorway on the corner at an angle,
With a fading palimpsest gable end advertisement
For something delicious and ‘home made’,
And a mysterious door numbered 31a,
That might – or might not- take us up flights of stairs,
Past so many Great Expectations,
And so to Mr. Wemmick’s castle up on high.

But far better than such an ascension,
Let us examine the shop windows:
Displays that follow the high ideals of public broadcasting,
Spectacles of books and comics and posters and maps,
All artfully and painstakingly arranged,
A tableau of colour and half-remembered past time,
A street mis en scene that arrests the eye,
And one which informs, educates and entertains,
A business that improves the mind of the passer-by,
As well as tempting the bibliophile;

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Kindertransport

Remembering

You were a deep mid-winter baby, Harry,
Born in Vienna, the home of art and culture,
Just two years after Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch.

But there was nothing to worry about
In those early years before memory,
When your mum and dad held you in their arms,
In mid-winter afternoon twilight –

Until the Wall Street Crash and depression
Meant the resurgence of fascism,
Militarism, the Third Reich,
Lebensraum, and a Greater Germany,
With a visit to Vienna from Hitler
(The city-birth of his fascism),
After Anschluss in 1938;

Remembering

You were a deep mid-winter baby, Harry,
Born in Vienna, the home of art and culture,
Just two years after Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch.

But there was nothing to worry about
In those early years before memory,
When your mum and dad held you in their arms,
In mid-winter afternoon twilight –

Until the Wall Street Crash and depression
Meant the resurgence of fascism,
Militarism, the Third Reich,
Lebensraum, and a Greater Germany,
With a visit to Vienna from Hitler
(The city-birth of his fascism),
After Anschluss in 1938;

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It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

It came upon a midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
When angels bent down to the earth,
And changed machine guns into harps,
And turned leaden bullets into golden carols
That drifted across no man’s land,
And choirs of soldiers joined the angels
In a cease-fire of exultation,
While all the bloodied uniformed citizens
Of heaven above watched as silent knights,
As helmets and caps and whisky and schnapps
Were passed from frozen side to frozen side,
When a Tommy kicked a football up into the air,
And there it stayed, suspended high up in the sky,
Shining for ever in a continent’s memory;
A star of peace in a bleak midwinter’s century.

It came upon a midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
When angels bent down to the earth,
And changed machine guns into harps,
And turned leaden bullets into golden carols
That drifted across no man’s land,
And choirs of soldiers joined the angels
In a cease-fire of exultation,
While all the bloodied uniformed citizens
Of heaven above watched as silent knights,
As helmets and caps and whisky and schnapps
Were passed from frozen side to frozen side,
When a Tommy kicked a football up into the air,
And there it stayed, suspended high up in the sky,
Shining for ever in a continent’s memory;
A star of peace in a bleak midwinter’s century.

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North and South

There, on the one hand, St. Pancras and Paris;
And there, on the other, Kings Cross:
Gateway to the LNER,
And night mails crossing the border,

And gateway to a world we have lost:
Pit heads and winding gear, tram-roads and collieries,
And curling smoke chimney stacks:
The world of the North,

The canvas telling the truth,
Up there in the Mining Art Gallery,
At Bishop Auckland:

A terrible beauty down there in the dark depths,
And a beautiful harmony up there in the streets
And homes and chapels and clubs and pubs:
The stippled mist-light of the pit village,
The twisted sinews in the eighteen inch seam,
Ears keening with the creak of each pit prop,
The mind tracking the echo of dripping water,
And the whisper of each rock –

There, on the one hand, St. Pancras and Paris;
And there, on the other, Kings Cross:
Gateway to the LNER,
And night mails crossing the border,

And gateway to a world we have lost:
Pit heads and winding gear, tram-roads and collieries,
And curling smoke chimney stacks:
The world of the North,

The canvas telling the truth,
Up there in the Mining Art Gallery,
At Bishop Auckland:

A terrible beauty down there in the dark depths,
And a beautiful harmony up there in the streets
And homes and chapels and clubs and pubs:
The stippled mist-light of the pit village,
The twisted sinews in the eighteen inch seam,
Ears keening with the creak of each pit prop,
The mind tracking the echo of dripping water,
And the whisper of each rock -

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A Lament for Dorothy and Archie

Each little river has a tale which, if understood, cannot fail
To edify the Human heart; mine’s of Lovers who’d not part:
Both loved Nature, read her runes and worshipped countless harvest moons.
He, a Minchinhampton Man – she the lanes of Burleigh ran,
Eager, passionate, enthralled to embrace her Archibald.
The stream that gushes into town on Hazel Woods, as hail, crashed down.
High on that ridge where sheep are shorn, a tiny rivulet was born.
It seeped through soil and chiselled stone, caressing sea-spawned Cotswold bone.
A weave of light like soft silk shook became a dancing, babbling brook.
Through Gatcombe Park the waters curled, then through its stately gardens swirled
To trace a spiral as they whirled past Longfords Mill.

Each little river has a tale which, if understood, cannot fail
To edify the Human heart; mine’s of Lovers who’d not part:
Both loved Nature, read her runes and worshipped countless harvest moons.
He, a Minchinhampton Man – she the lanes of Burleigh ran,
Eager, passionate, enthralled to embrace her Archibald.
The stream that gushes into town on Hazel Woods, as hail, crashed down.
High on that ridge where sheep are shorn, a tiny rivulet was born.
It seeped through soil and chiselled stone, caressing sea-spawned Cotswold bone.
A weave of light like soft silk shook became a dancing, babbling brook.
Through Gatcombe Park the waters curled, then through its stately gardens swirled
To trace a spiral as they whirled past Longfords Mill. read more

The Pilgrim’s True Path

It started with a glance out of the bus,
A blood red disc of a sandstorm sun,
It was ten past ten.

The light numinous rather than luminous,
As we opened the door to leave Bisley church,
Emigrant-ghosts waiting for the Bristol cart,
And a six week voyage to New South Wales.
It was twenty to eleven.

We walked through deep, shadowed holloways,
Walking the Bisley Path,
High above the valley marshlands,
Through woodland shrouded in the strange glow
Of another world’s grey-green light,
The harbinger of Hurricane Ophelia,
The wind now shrieking through the creaking trees,
Leaves falling like some autumn snowstorm.

It started with a glance out of the bus,
A blood red disc of a sandstorm sun,
It was ten past ten.

The light numinous rather than luminous,
As we opened the door to leave Bisley church,
Emigrant-ghosts waiting for the Bristol cart,
And a six week voyage to New South Wales.
It was twenty to eleven.

We walked through deep, shadowed holloways,
Walking the Bisley Path,
High above the valley marshlands,
Through woodland shrouded in the strange glow
Of another world’s grey-green light,
The harbinger of Hurricane Ophelia,
The wind now shrieking through the creaking trees,
Leaves falling like some autumn snowstorm.

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Remembering Stroud’s Conscientious Objectors from WW1

‘How do you prove you have a conscience?’

You came to me via a pdf,
Out of the blue,
Via a Facebook message,
On a hot afternoon in late July,
With names, occupations, addresses and ages –
A bit like a census, in a strange way:
Official, bald, and bureaucratic
In your modernity,
No telegrams today.

Eighteen conscientious objectors
Whose courage, principles and politics,
Whose ethics, morals and steadfastness
Enabled them to stand up against the crowd,
In those heated days before and after July 1916,
And before and after November 1918.

‘How do you prove you have a conscience?’

You came to me via a pdf,
Out of the blue,
Via a Facebook message,
On a hot afternoon in late July,
With names, occupations, addresses and ages -
A bit like a census, in a strange way:
Official, bald, and bureaucratic
In your modernity,
No telegrams today.

Eighteen conscientious objectors
Whose courage, principles and politics,
Whose ethics, morals and steadfastness
Enabled them to stand up against the crowd,
In those heated days before and after July 1916,
And before and after November 1918.
read more

The Badgers of Slad

The paintings of badgers on the posts at Slad,
Are beguiling and deceptive in their art,
Seemingly comic and anthropomorphic,
Each one contributes to a tragic tale,
Summarised in that curt and cruel word: cull.
They look like Tommies facing execution,
Tied to their posts at dawn’s first red-streaked light:
What passing-bells for those who die for cattle?

‘Only the monstrous anger of the guns,
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle.’

The paintings of badgers on the posts at Slad,
Are beguiling and deceptive in their art,
Seemingly comic and anthropomorphic,
Each one contributes to a tragic tale,
Summarised in that curt and cruel word: cull.
They look like Tommies facing execution,
Tied to their posts at dawn’s first red-streaked light:
What passing-bells for those who die for cattle?

‘Only the monstrous anger of the guns,
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle.’

read more