I found this old poem, written many, many years ago, tucked under rubbish in a drawer and thought ‘this is a little bit of lost history’. It brought back a flood of memories (and more than a few tears). Memories of a simpler time. A time in Northern Ireland where normality was measured in bombs and guns and senseless death and religious bigotry.
So here it is.
A little bit of my past.
As a boy I played with pedal cars
and watched Lassie in black and white.
My sister was two years younger than I
yet we played happily together in a yard
mottled with crazy paving.
My mother was jolly and wore bright dresses.
My father was stern
and not afraid to use the belt which
hung like a voodoo charm from a nail
at the back door.
My sister and I lived for each childhood moment.
each game of tag,
each chase around the yard.
It eased us through an enchanted time.
Later, as a primary school boy
I played in the lush meadows which
surrounded our council terrace with
Wallace, Midgie and Trevor,
flattening the tall summer grasses
as we advanced on our bellies
wooden tommy guns at the ready.
I remember playing grocery shops,
stripping the bright seed heads of
ripened grasses and layering them
in tins and jam jars.
We pulverised lumps of sandstone
and made shifting dunes which
shone like magical beacons in the
I remember sacred places like
Johnston’s rocks and the Eagle’s nest,
secret sanctuaries where we whispered
about lost treasures and made
pledges of honour.
We climbed trees reaching the topmost
sapling branches and creeping to their ends
bent them earthwards
then jumped, the spindly growths
ripping skywards with a piercing rasp
like Mrs Oliphant’s whip.
I remember our fathers playing football,
it was captain’s pick
and our fathers were prized team mates.
They ran around our tiny pitch like teenagers
and goals were greeted with
Jock Murdoch watched from the side lines.
We were afraid of Jock.
He leant heavily on his stick
a growling Alsatian dog at his side.
I was still at primary school
when images from Londonderry
filled the television news.
I remember Gerry Fitt,
a small wiry balding man with
black prescription glasses, who
confronted the police with his banners
parents with stern faces
and tears in their eyes
that what was happening was
very, very bad
and very, very sad.
We didn’t understand.
I am my father’s son.
I reflect his genealogy.
We are not close
yet we respect each other.
I was born into a dying age
of unseen, quiet, yet happy children.
An age of carefree immaturity.
My son is a free spirit.
He is a tender boy,
small for his age
yet fights his corner
like a terrier.
He is the spit of his Grandfather,
the same thin wiry gait
and mischievous grin.
he is made of soft stuff,
eager to please
and fit in.
Brought up to accept people
for what they are and
not what their parents
want them to be.
At the caravan last weekend
a fresh faced girl of nine or ten
asked my son
“Are you a Catholic?”
“Of course I am” he said.
My son is a Protestant.