Monday, 7 April 2014

A Poetry Evening.

Last night I went with a friend to a poetry evening at our Arts Centre.   There were twelve there, plus the poet and it was a pleasant evening.   We were invited to read our own poetry and I thought I would share with you one of the ones I read.   I have put it on my blog before, but it is a long time ago, so many of you will not have read it.  Before I put it on I'll fill you in on a bit of background.

My mother was one of eight, all born around the last decade of the nineteenth century.   All the girls went into service when they left school and the boys went to work on the railways, which were just coming into their own in fenland Lincolnshire.   Over the years all the family did well, married, settled down and began to prosper (it was the age when this happened to so many people).   All except the youngest boy, Tom.   He was the 'black sheep' and I adored him.

Tom worked on the railway, didn't marry, spent all his spare time (and money) in The Black Horse, where, when he ran out of cash he would dance on the table for the price of a pint of beer.

As night fell he became a poacher, the bane of the lives of Landowners, Gamekeepers and the like.   My mother lived in fear of meeting him when she got on the bus to go into town (he lived in the next village, where she had been born).   She had married the son of a Methodist Lay Preacher and we spent our lives keeping up appearances.

He once saw us on the bus, called out down the bus for us to go and sit with him, I ran and climbed on his knee, my mother came reluctantly.  I remember he gave me a ten shilling note - a lot of money in those days.  I worked out what I would spend it on when I got into town.   My mother made me put it in the Penny Bank!

When he died everyone in the village came to his funeral.   The local hunt came, on horseback, and lined the route to the church;  all the Landowners and Gamekeepers turned up and they gave him a rousing send off.   My father always said they came to thank God that at last they had got him out of their hair!

A Lincolnshire Poacher.

Dance on the table Tommy,
while away the night,
'til a clear moon rises
and the stars add their light.
Then you'll blend with the hedgerow
and you''ll set about your work
and you'll reach the flowing river
where the silver salmon lurk.

Dance on the table Tommy,
dance the night away;
when the night's at its blackest
and the dawn's far away -
you'll be down in the furrow
with the wild, brown hare.
You'll be hoping that he's caught
in your cruel snare.

Dance on the table Tommy,
faster, faster still,
'til the cold, white frost
sparkles bright on the hill.
Then you're out with your sack
and your killing twine.
Pheasant tastes delicious
with a good, red wine.

Dance on the table Tommy,
fill your skin with ale,
for you won't go a-poaching
'til the sky turns pale.
Then you'll set off with your rod
and hope no-one's about
and you'll end up with a catch
of a fat, brown trout.

Dance on the table Tommy,
Tommy'll dance no more;
for the old Grim Reaper
has scythed him to the floor.
And the Lords and the Gamekeepers,
who heard his Passing Bell,
will be there at his funeral
to say their last farewell.


Dartford Warbler said...

That is wonderful Pat!

What a character Tommy must have been. Your poem brings him to life again and sets him dancing on the table to the rhythm of your words.

I can imagine the mixed emotions as your respectable mother tried to deal with her much loved but wayward brother!

Frugal in Derbyshire said...

That really is a very good Poem Pat. I bet it went down well at your poetry evening

Crafty Green Poet said...

I enjoyed reading your poem, I like how you start each stanza with 'Dance on the table Tommy'

Thickethouse.wordpress said...

Really wonderful. It put me in mind of Kipling's A Smuggler's Song, somehow. Perhaps the sense of colorful misdeeds taken quite lightly. I am so glad you gave the background. I can see why you loved him....

Heather said...

Tommy must have been well loved by all the community for them to attend his funeral in such numbers. I think your poem is a wonderful tribute to your roguish uncle and I found it very moving.

Mac n' Janet said...

Oh my, what a wonderful family story and poem!

Linda Metcalf said...

Just beautiful!

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

How wonderful for a young girl to have an Uncle Tommy - wonderful story and touching poem.

Cloudia said...

God bless you, Tommy. Now we've paid you our respects too.

Nicely done / very worthwhile post. Thanks


hart said...

Marvelous poem, you've really got the feel of the dancing.--Hart

Bovey Belle said...

Oh what a wonderful picture your story and poem conjured up and I don't blame you for having Tommy as your favourite uncle! The world needs characters like him. A really good poem, and very enjoyable. I loved his send-off - he was obviously respected by all, even though he did the landowners down in his spare time!

Anonymous said...

That's such a good poem Pat, and wonderful tribute.

Virginia said...

What an evocative poem Pat! It's the kind that demands to be read out aloud. What a character he must have been - and how much more tolerant a society to appreciate his 'eccentricities' back then!

Thank you

Robin Mac said...

Wonderful piece Pat, what a character and your uncle must have been, no surprise he was your favorite. Cheers

Robin Mac said...

Wonderful piece Pat, what a character and your uncle must have been, no surprise he was your favorite. Cheers

angryparsnip said...

I too enjoyed your poem but I also liked the story that lead up to it.
Both so enjoyable.

cheers, parsnip

Hill Top Post said...

I love your poem too, but it fills my heart with sadness...

Beverley said...

Beautiful words. Also the story.

12Paws said...

A deeply moving insightful poem about your rascal uncle. Your words mimic the prose of your prologue. What a talent you have!

Hildred said...

Wonderful, Pat. You have caught the essence of the 'Uncle Tommy' that lives in so many families, - a well loved embarrassment!!! I like your father's comment about the honours paid him at the funeral, and yet their presence probably indicated affection as much as relief..

Tim said...

What a magnificent "Pome"...
no wonder you liked him...
what a character, indeed!!

I'll never eat a chunk of "Lincolnshire Poacher" cheese, now...
without thinking of your 'wayward' uncle.

For the hunt to turn out like that, he may have been 'poacher'....
but he'll have done his bit for them, too...
to earn that respect, that honour!
can't say more...
I've a bottle of Elgood's "Golden Newt"...
that I found in a strange "remainders" shop here in France.
I'll open it tomorrow and raise a Lincolnshire glass to Tommy...
may he poach in peace!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for your comments. It is some years since I wrote the poem, so would probably write it differently now, but glad you liked it.

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