Poet and Writer 1922 – 2001
Photograph: The Victoria Bar, Glasgow, by Stuart Eydmann c. 1984.
Come gather round me, town bred folk
and listen to my tale
I was born in Monaghan of the little hills and vales,
My mother kept a fruit shop, my father he ran wild
and I became in the village street an anxious daring child.
From ‘The Love Ballad’ Fowrsom Reel (Glasgow 1949) p. 50.
This Irish writer was a well known figure around the pub-based traditional music scene in Glasgow during the second half of the twentieth century. For information see the obituary in the Herald newspaper and this Wikipedia entry. Note also the recent publication of his collected poems and prose.
The Auld Scotia
This poem was found in a typescript among the papers of the late Mick Broderick to whom it was dedicated. Dated 27 June 1968, it features the spirit of a long-dead regular returning to the site of the Scotia Bar, Glasgow in 2015 and remembering its ambience and characters of old. It is a great snapshot of the pub at a time when it was a hub of the folk revival, mentioning several well-known names and lots of lesser ones – unless you were around at the time.
The year two thousan’ an fifteen,
An aged man leaves Glesca Green
An slowly then on weary feet
Stops for a breath in Stockwell Street,
Frae his eye there draps a tear,
Remembring frien’s o’ yesteryear – O lang, lang syne.
The ancient tenements are gone:
Beneath the brig Auld Clyde flows on,
Tho all around a brighter scene
Arises where drab shops had been in his young day.
Now frae a house across the way,
There sallies forth a kindly lad
Enquiring why he looks sae sad.
The bearded one but shakes his head,
“I’m thinkin now o’ frien’s lang deid.
Upon this site Auld Scotia stood,
An ach, I’m in a dreamy mood,
As my wanderin thought recalls
The host within these vanished walls.
For here on mony a Saturday,
The low roof rang wi’ laughter gay,
An, ah, how merry they could be,
These lads frae yaird an factory!
But this was no your common pub
O boozers swillin’ at the tub,
Or domino or flying dart:
No! There were folk frae every airt!
Engineer an student came,
An some upon the brink o’ fame,
An some wha gear an’ fame despised
Lest higher purpose be enticed
Into a web sae wicked wove,
Talent transforms tae treasure trove.
Here by the turn o’ Howard Street,
Poet, scholar, sage might meet,
But in the hour o’ which I dream,
Oh, how the very rafters rang
Re-echoing mony an auld Scots sang,
Til doun frae native crag an’ glen,
An ancient host o’ Hielan men,
By treach’rous lairds made lean & lanky,
Sprang sgians out in “Killiecrankie”,
An’ helped restore a nation’s pride
In generations of the Clyde.
Ah, Laddie, in your eyes I see
The ripennin’ fruit o’ history,
E’en such were we in auld lang syne,
Sae tent ye weel this tale o’ mine!
For here, guitar, banjo an’ whissel
Upheld the glory o’ the thissel,
The hairst o’ moon-licht on the rig
By magic gleams at Glesca Brig.
Oh, here were lads an lassies bricht,
Lang since hae faded frae ma sicht
An’ that is why the tear-draps fall
Frae fand auld mem’ries I recall.
For where is Clydebank’s bearded Mick
Regalin us a’ wi’ mony a trick?
His phantom-hov’rings in mid air
Made even strangers stop and stare and then applaud.
To Scotia’s heroes he gave fame,
‘Til in the act, himsel became
A kind o’ God!
Or where is the MacLaren Clan?
In company wi’ a female fan,
The elegant an’ dashin’ Dan
No more you’ll see,
Unless in paradise he sings,
An’ by the power o’ his strings
Frae some frail cherub’s flutt’rin’ wings,
Or, where is Grimes’ dark rollin’ eye
That raised the subject to the sky,
Where are they now?
Stockwell Street no langer echoes wi’ their feet –
I search in vain!
Gone alas these names sae bricht,
Like Molendinar out o’ sicht,
How transient is the mortal licht
O’ saints an’ sages!
Come forth, ye shadows frae the mist!
Tho powers o’ dree ma plan resist,
I’ll dip a pen an’ mak a list,
My Book o’ Ages.
Where is that young minstrel pair
Wi’ ranchy duds an’ flowin’ hair?
What feasts o’ music they once shared,
Your party try in vain tae guard
Wi’ bolted door an winnow jarred,
You’ll meet them in your ain back yaird
Come doun the lums.
Or Al an’ Stuart, brithers twain,
You’d find across the Irish main
Or lappin’ lager in Dunblane
Wi’ Johnson Billy,
Or wi’ yon hermit o’ Glencoe
Tastin’ strange auld vines that grow
By Ossian’s Cave an’ Glendaroe
Wad knock you silly.
Now comes the daddy o’ them all,
Four-score an’ brisk, yet kindly Paul.
Before he hies hame tae his dearie,
He’ll wander back tae auld Dunleary,
Wi glistenin’ eye a bout recall
O’ days he flaired them yin an’ a’.
Hear Auld Scotia’s voice proclaim
Many a well remembered name,
Fairy-fingered “Banjo Maley”,
The fiddling architect called Daly,
Hirstlin’ Harry an’ Laggan Art
All piped their tune an’ played their part,
An’ now perchance some Stygian glade
Nestles a library in its shade
Where curious sprites in wonder troop
To knowledge with the Clutha group.
The lassies too, I mind them well,
Helen, Cath an’ Isobel,
Irene wi’ Colin shares the Coke,
While Annie peerin’ thru the smoke
Spies the mince-pies lowp and bristle
– A moment more they’ll turn tae grissel,
As Jackie answers clamourin’ calls for beer,
When, lo, A tumbler falls tae rouse a cheer.
Brave patient Jo wi’ brush and shovel
Gropes smithereens amid the hovel,
And sends some drunk’s unsteady feet
Tae stagger on the totterin’ street –
The night wears on,
Ah, frien’s an’ cronies o’ my day,
Where are ye gone?
Here wi’ his own merry band,
Uproarious Imlach used tae stand,
Protected as an heirloom locket,
He hugged the bottle in his pocket –
Some fiery stuff wad rouse the Devil
An’ sharpen swords o’ bad an’ evil.
Mandoline an’ concertina,
Grimes’ rollin’ eye transfixed on Gina,
The lilting voices o’ the thrang
Sway wi’ an auld sea-shanty sang.
Bush-bearded Vinnie holds the wand –
There’s one or two can barely stand –
Wee Peter Feeney, a glass the worse,
Looks for pills tae feed the horse,
Man’s frien’ now sunk sae low you see
(Its shoes alane he’ll guarantee) –
He damns the Polis, nor gives a care
If every word they’re notin’ there.
Out-side cold stars shine on the city,
A world within o’ warmth an’ pity,
Generous hearts ‘spite fault or sin,
Wad fill the auld age pensioner’s tin,
Of sich Auld Scotia had her share
– Aye, maybe mair than anywhere,
For here you’d meet in social round,
The rowan heart o’ Glesca toun.
Occasionally, the cold wind blew
In frae the East a canny crew,
A brash hard-headed impious lot
The Major’s tricks had not forgot,
But they soon learned to grow less gallus
In traffic wi’ the sons o Wallace,
An’ even upstarts o the Clyde
We douced their zeal an’ damned their pride,
Spared no conceit nor foolish fancies
But in the wake o’ “Poosie Nancy’s”
To “King an Law” we raised no cheer
For all were Jolly Beggars here!
The night must pass.
Johnny Silvo calls for a glass,
Luke Kelly’s on the Rocky Road
An’ toddlin hame tae his abode,
Christy calls one for the bhoys
An’ prays it will be paid by Moyes,
While John wi’ dark suspicion fell
Eyes that temperamental bell,
A moment more we’re on the street,
A final gab an’ silence is complete.
Ah, mony years hae lang passed on,
Since Scotia’s an’ its folk hae gone’
An’ here the auld man drew his breath
“Mony! Mony sunk in death!
Lads an’ lassies o’ the Clyde:
Ebbin’ lives just like the tide.
Some an earthly fame acquired.
Some no higher rank aspired.
Children of a toilin’ race,
Who can ever tak’ your place,
The night wears on,
Oh! Frien’s an cronies o’ my day,
Where are you gone?”
To Phanton-hovring Mick – From Freddy Anderson on your type-writer 27/6/68.
Song of a Flea (with apologies to the genuine breed)
A poem, taken from a stray edition (reference to be added) of the newsletter Scotia Folk concerning P.M. Harold Wilson:
Our dearly-beloved ex-P.M. Wilson says he is retiring while he still feels “as fit as a flea”. I therefore dedicate my poem to him. The flea in this instance is both Irish and Shakespearean and for that reason is pronounced ‘flay’.
Our Prime Minister ‘arry feels fit as a flea,
Aye no bloody wonder I hear people say,
For in the flea circus called Parliament House,
His antics have always been that of a louse.
A clever wee parasite he now feels secure,
Having thrived for so long on the blood of the poor,
The son of a chemist in a nation of mugs,
He ended, a pedlar of political drugs.
Ramsey MacDonald was his idol they say,
Yes, one wasa rat and the other a flea;
The called themselves “Labour”, By Christ, what a joke,
You’d need salt to swallow that pig in a poke.
He now has resigned after ‘serving his time’,
He’s fattened himself and he feels in his prime,
But look at the nation and what can you say,
Of the legacy left by ‘arry the flea.
The poor they grow poorer, the school-meals are cut,
He puts us ‘in Europe’ and we’re stuck in a rut,
He soft-soaped Rhodesia, helped Ulster aflame,
And treacherously tarnished the Socialist name.
Oh, the papers all praise this magnificent flea,
For the louse served the bosses so well in his day,
But sensible people won’t swallow their tripe,
And ‘arry the Flea can put that in ‘is pipe.
Don’t weep and don’t cry if you feel Harold’s loss,
There’s thousands more like him to arse-lick the boss,
As the great Swift once said we’re not short of that item,
We have fleas upon fleas and so ……….infinitum.