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The Channel Threat

Dan O’Mahoney, you’re the CCTC:
A Marine brought in to guard our seas,
Against marauding bands of life jacketed savages,
Who, our green and pleasant lands, would ravage.

Danny, get on your “chariot of fire”
and unleash Britannia’s mighty force,
To repel the Armada of the foe,
Paddling over in their tiny boats.

Hail Clandestine Channel Threat Commander,
Get your act together, please do not dander.
Fetch your “bow of burning gold”
But be sure you point it straight and bold.
Your country needs a steady hand,
To save it from enemies unknown

We know that the Ministry for Immigration Compliance,
Will always be there for a handy alliance,
With our Clandestine Channel Threat Commander
And the Department for the salubriousness of Great Britannia.

Shirley Gibson 30.09.2020 copyright

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Bloody Sunday

30th January 1972, Lagan Valley Hospital
Lisburn, Northern Ireland

You were a wrinkled bundle o’ joy when you first came along
A soldier’s bairn, your eyes squinting up at the world,
You didn’t understand the remarks being made or feel the hurt being wrung,
From the hearts of the women standing there. Anger laced every word
How could we have known that your birth would be a forerunner to such hurt.

It was bloody Sunday and, as I held you near, I knew that life would change,
But the wariness I felt as I carried you along stays with me to this day.
Who knows what made the difference between one woman and the next
But it seemed that we were all on the edge of an unstoppable swirling vortex.

How on Earth had it come to this, the troops had all been welcomed.
Tea and biscuits at every turn. Kindness had been the custom,
But that kindness was somehow changed to hatred and guns led the way.
To bloody slaughter on all sides and families having to pay

They gathered in Creggan to march that day for their basic human rights.
An end to internment and injustice were their goals and they were willing to fight the fight.
As they marched along, with determination in their hearts, the guns opened fire,
And thirteen lay dead in the tarmac and tears, making a bloodied pyre

Who was to blame you hear people shout. The cry goes up “Not me”
Perhaps it was the ministers of the kirks or the Senior officers who led the way
Did the marchers have any part to play? If yes, they paid the price.
No, it was the soldiers who bore the shame although they had no voice.

We look to our Government to clarify its aims.
But the soldiers were pawns in an everchanging game
Politicians guided by sectarian hate wouldn’t budge
Bitterness had set in and conflict was the judge

To Governments who do not value their armed forces,
Remember that, when the chips are down, your fate is on their shoulders.
Our soldiers are not the toys of fools. Their role is to protect .
The cost at times so heavy with no accolades to collect

Nearly fifty years have gone now. We have a fragile peace
But are all of our people valued, whatever colour, belief or creed
It is they who bring us “hope and glory” and this can be achieved
Through mutual respect and trust, unfettered by political division and greed.

At this time of fear and uncertainty, perhaps the old wounds can be healed.
We will enjoy peace and happiness once more and our bonds can again be sealed.
Shirley Gibson 21.03.2020 copyright

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Cushions

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Jimmy Kelly’s Sang

“You see and come back now Son”

My husband Phil and I were privileged to join some of the members of the Royal Engineers Association, Dundee Branch to pay a visit to the war graves in Belgium on the 100th. anniversary of the end of the 1st World War. Following the visit I thought about the role of many women at that time who waited at home powerless to do anything directly for their loved ones. And how such a mother, would feel about her son expressing a wish to join up.
To that end, I’ve penned a wee poem and, in it, I’m thinking particularly of a Dundee Mother.

Last night I made a decision tae join the engineers
But first I had tae speak to my Maw, just tae allay her fears
Ye want tae be a sapper then ye daft heided loon
I’ll tell ye what ye’ll be dayin so just sit yersel doon.

Ye’ll be marching, saluting, standing to attention,
Bullin yer boots till ye see yer reflection
Saluting the sergeant and getting a bollocking
Then down the local for a wee bit o’ frolickin
Ye’ll drink yer mates under the table.
Then try to get a lass,,,,,, if yer able.

Does that sound good to ye son.
But a’ these shenanigans have a price
And it’s sometimes the way that they toss the dice
Yer Faither was a sapper ye see joined with his mate Peter, baith fae Dundee

Soon they were on their way to France
They intended to set Adolf a merry dance
Despatched onto the beach with much bravado and guile
looking out for each other all the while
a shower of bullets put paid to that
and Peter was down with a rat tat tat

Son, one of the reasons that I’m telling this story
Just so ye know, it’s no all glory
It’s hard graft maist o’ the time
And you’ve got to learn how to tow the line
But you’ll work as a team and make friends for life
Being careful to keep out o’ the trouble and strife

“So off ye go lad but remember this. You’re no too big for a right sloppy kiss. …come here”

Shirley Gibson 20.02.2020 copyright

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The Seagull

Photo by Denys Onofriichuk on Pexels.com

From chimney to chimney the seagulls call.
They’re becoming hungry, no children at all
Where’s the curry and chips upon which they rely:
It’s not on the roadside to fulfil their cry

They all came inland when the fish became scarce,
And were fed by the children, their take-outs to taste,
But the virus is here, human friends disappear.
They must now go back to a time before fear,
When they foraged themselves seeking insects and worms,
To return to their nests with real grub for their young.
Shirley Gibson 06.04.2020

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The Manchester Moles

My poem is about the Clay Kickers employed, during the 1st World War, by Major John Griffith’s Company. They had worked on the Manchester sewers where the soil, like that of Flanders, was clay based. The Clay Kickers had the skills necessary to work more quietly and quickly than the German Tunnellers. 18 men were initially recruited without the usual basic Military training. Men were also recruited from the coal and tin mines across Britain for tunnelling. Many men died but, for years, remained unsung heroes due to the secrecy of the project.

Johnny’s Mam
Johnny’s away to the Army. He’s joined the Engineers.
From Manchester’s sewers to Flanders Fields’
And he says he’ll be back in a year.

Apparently he’s working in trenches. He says it’s really good.
“It’s just like working in the underground
And they’ve all got plenty o’ food.
They call them the sappers
[Something to do wi’ spades]
But I’m glad he’s coming home soon. I’m busy counting the days.”

Johnny

“I think I’ve reassured me Mam that this hell hole’s a piece o’ Heaven,
But we really work in a secret place.
We call it Armageddon.
It’s under the trenches, far from the day,
Where we’ve got to dig out the bloodied clay.”

They needed our skills to work quiet and fast
So they sent us to Chatham and made sure we passed
We’re the 170th [Tunnelling] Company Royal Engineers
Sounds a lot better than building the sewers
The wage is six shillings, a fortune indeed
So I’ll send it to me Mam for the bairns to feed

We’re lying in the tunnel Andy and me
Wedged between the trolley and the wall
Filling and loading the bags o’ clay
For the Trammer to make his call
Our mates are on their crosses, kicking irons
In the cloying earth
And the Infantry pump in the air so we can catch our breath

Jerry is doing much the same on the other side of the wall
They’re not really any different from us
We all answered the call
They’ll also be young lads pulled away
from their norm
And, Just like us Brits, they’ve had to conform

But we’ve got to fight for every inch
Or so our superiors say
So we will stay in the shadows meantime
Kicking and digging the clay
Until the day dawns when peace is here
We can go out into the sunset free from fear

Further up the line, the listener lifts his hand
I can hear a wsht wsht sound coming from the sand
Andy says “It’s your heart beat, pounding in your ears”
“Now go and take a deep breath and dry away your tears”

I see a trickle of debris falling from above
The candle flickers and stops
Then comes the sound of thunder
I can’t feel the props
“Run lads, run like hell”

On all fours along the passage
Trying our best to escape the gases
But our way is blocked,
dust clouds rise
I feel for Andy and close his eyes
I lean back against the crumbling wall
And feel cocooned in the sinking shawl

Now all is still, me Mam is here
She takes my hand to ease my fear
I’m safe and sound in the sunset glow
And know that, at last, I can safely go
Shirley Costello Gibson 12.01.2020 copyright

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My Old Buddy Joe

Joe is an amalgamation of many veterans whom I have known over the years including of course our Dad: Robert Costello, Royal Engineers who served in France and Palestine in the 2nd World War. Robert is pictured between two friends Mick and Gus from Dundee REA.

What happened to Joe, my feisty old buddy
A decorated soldier no less
A wounded eagle so age defined
Sent back home to clear a space

Who had the right to make these choices
When back into homes old people were foisted
Without the necessary checks and balances
The risks were ignored with the consequent damages

And, in line with the prevailing guidance
Joe came home carrying the virus
Things soon changed, people were gone
Behind closed doors to be waited upon by ghosts with no faces,
Swishing sounds accompanied their paces

He thought of Jessie, fingers trailing ivory keys
And Willie’s tuba in the corner, polished but at peace
Mr. Jeffrey’s Elvis records awaiting collection
And Norman’s karaoke machine a treasured possession

Now joe has a cough and it’s harder to breathe
But his optimism is getting him through
He says he’s not ready for the pearly gates
And it’s not the time to say adieu“

“When Jessie gets better, we can all gather round
And sing again of the times that are past
Of our pals who were there through thick and through thin
And of our hopes that our friendships will last “

I’ve been asked to visit Joe for one last time
I see him through the window
The carer tries to talk to him but Joe is now in limbo
He is reaching for someone but is drifting away
What a pity his DCM can’t help him today

Shirley Costello Gibson 05.08.2020 copyright
DCM Distinguished Conduct Medal

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Doggie Paraphernalia

Bandanas for your four legged friends. Also poo bag holders. All from Wendy [Gibberz Creations] Just clip on to your belt and off you both go on your walkies.

Thanks to our beautiful models. Troyboy’s photo now added.

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Coal Tar Soap

Coal Tar Soap
I’ve got a wee bar o’ coal tar soap.
It’s my constant companion
And fills me wi’ hope,
That my incessant cleansing
Will guard me against
The corona beastie sent here tae torment.

So thanks Mr. Wright
You’ve saved me fae an early Heaven,
Cause your wee bar o’ soap will surely deaden
The wee beasties congregating ready to strike
But they really don’t know that we’re ready to fight

Its lathery countenance and tarry fragrance
Belie the determination of its engagement
So to all those cheeky wee beasties
I know all along I’m protected from them
Because of the presence of my wee yellow gem.
Shirley Costello Gibson 24.03.2020
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The Ballad of Dominic Cummings

The Ballad of Dominic Cummings
There once was a couple called Domie and Boris
Who hosted a party in their garden of roses
All their pals and the media had gathered there
For Domie Cummings, his soul to bare

We had a pandemic in the World you see
The people were told they were no longer free
To go outside and socialise
Nor visit their loved ones as they died

But that rule was not for everyone
And Cummings broke it with impunity
He got a story drafted for us
Knowing that Boris would provide immunity

After all Boris had nothing else on his plate
Just the pandemic and that could wait
So he and his cronies supported their buddy
As the truth, his tale, was intended to muddy

Fairy Tale of Barnard Castle
[Based loosely] on the tune of “Fairy Tale of New York”, The Pogues]

“ My eyes were fuzzy and I could not see so good
So we all got in my car. I’m really quite a dude
And then we had a trip to Barnard Castle town
But going back again, we had to stop”

Then the river was calling so we took a little walk
Alongside it’s rippling flow we passed the time
But then we had to leave to drive back home again
Then came the miracle, my sight was fine

Now that bit is the truth there will be no regrets
And I’ve always got Boris to watch my back
Though I spread the beastie
through our green and pleasant land
I am pretty sure that I’ll not get the sack

Chorus
We’ve got cars big as bars
We’ve got bank accounts to match
So we really don’t care much
For daft rules on our patch
Just let all the low paid keep this country fit
While we open the champagne and dream of Brexit

He’s a bum
He’s a twit
He’s gotta be on smack
If he thinks we believe him
He’s buttoned up the back

As the boys of the right wing syndicate
were singing Jerusalem
The bells were ringing out for Dominie

Shirley Costello Gibson 02.06.2020 copyright