LOST TRIBES


Catching the last train on any Sunday night,

when I was a student, before The Troubles,

they would be there. I would notice them

in noisy farewells clustered near the bar:

the men, red faced, shouting companionably

with the drink, the women calming kids –

the cardboard suitcases, the carrier bags.

 

Changing at Crewe, there would be more of them

to join us for the early Irish Mail –

refreshment bars and ill-lit platforms full

of bothered, now silent travellers.

One night – the Mail, as usual, delayed –

an old man, in a black overcoat,

gripping a scuffed doctor’s bag, its clasp

tarnished, turned to me, saying, in a soft

Dublin accent, ‘British Railways ought to be

bombed!’, and chuckled at what he must have thought

was our shared history and a past gone.

 

With them, waiting on the platforms or jostling

for seats, I felt close, whether real or imagined,

to centuries of unremitted wrongs

held so fresh in memories that it must seem

only yesterday the Black and Tans patrolled,

just a week since the potatoes failed,

a month since Cromwell’s hard-faced soldiery

massacred the innocents at Drogheda.

 

Leaving the train a few stops after Crewe,

I would think of their now unbroken way,

through a slate-black countryside, to embark

for somewhere they knew was home – and envy them

such modest certainty.

 

 

 

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  1. #1 by John Chapman - September 24th, 2012 at 10:42

    From the Viking slave traders through centuries of misuse and abuse by other nations, the indigenous population of Ireland has managed to remained true to itself. Now we give them money and they come here to work whilst still hoping to arrest the North from our grasp. Maybe, one day, both North and South will be able to accept their religious differences and co-exist in peace and prosperity and our suspicion of that accent will recede into history.

  2. #2 by Ian Craine - September 24th, 2012 at 11:07

    Nice one. Brings back memories of the old trains from Euston to Chester and the companionship of the bar back then.

    “Leaving the train a few stops after Crewe”- that would be pre-Beeching I guess when the train left Crewe for “Beeston Castle, Tattenhall, Waverton and Chester General”.

  3. #3 by David Selzer - September 24th, 2012 at 12:12

    Ah, pre-Beeching indeed! In some things, more civilised days!

  4. #4 by David Selzer - September 24th, 2012 at 15:12

    The clause in the Eire constitution laying claim to the six counties of Ulster was removed as part of the Good Friday Agreement. The UK contributed to the so-called bail-out because Eire is one of the UK’s main trading partners. The Irish from the republic come to the UK again to work because there is more work here than at home. The relationship between the north and south of the island of Ireland seems amicable – it is the continuing tensions between some members of the two major communities in Ulster that is disturbing. I am not sure which of the various regional or class-related Irish accents you are referring to when you write ‘that accent’ or to whom you are referring when you write ‘our’. As for ‘suspicion’, is this how the inhabitants of the larger island view, say, Bob Geldorf, Graham Norton or Terry Wogan?

  5. #5 by John Chapman - September 24th, 2012 at 18:53

    For my part the accent is that which came from spokesmen of Sinn Fein when they were bombing our cities and indiscriminently killing our citizens. Those same accents are now evident in the Northern Ireland Assembly and still put the wind up me and they are not to be in any way confused with the accents of those celebrities you mention. As we trade with Eire why do we also have to give them large amounts of money when we have so many deserving causes of our own going underfunded. We were given none of the money they received from the EU, were we, in order to continue trading with them? And why should we be, that was for them to spend wisely and it seems perhaps they did not entirely? So, many of them have to come here and go to other countries now to find gainful employment away from their families and friends very much as many of their forefathers had to except, this time, there really is no one else to blame. The tensions and rioting still evident between the religeous communities in the North seem to be fomented principly amongst the young if what you see in the news videos is to be believed, a relief of other tensions also perhaps, like unemployment for instance. Such rioting of the young was recently evident here and blamed on secular causes.

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