Beyond Ailsa Craig

Beyond Ailsa Craig


Towards the Clyde we sailed,

away beyond Ailsa Craig.


It was far from the sea where I was born,

no fog horns sounded warnings through our nights,

the only seagulls seen blown in on storms.

It was far from the sea where I was born.

To catch sight of waves we first caught a train,

the station so close, at our gardens’ end,

engine’s rumbling rhythms rocked me to sleep,

always a long journey to see the sea.


I remember a time when whistles blew,

doors slammed on the train, green flag raised,

gathering speed we passed our neighbours,

farewell hankies raised like white flags flew.


Bobbing in their wake I followed parents

finding their way through busy Dublin streets.

From station to dockside they steered us,

gently guiding our uncertain young feet.


There by the quays the ship waited for us.

From way up on deck I watched cattle

bellowing their way to the lowest hold.

Porters shouted, customs men in white caps

chalked with ease white marks on old cases.

Ship’s horns sounding we left to sail the night.

No more can you journey that way today,

no boats leave North Wall, Glasgow City bound.




Towards the Clyde we sailed,

away beyond Ailsa Craig.


Eastward down the Liffey firstly heading,

turning East by North where Howth Head nodded,

passing Ireland’s Eye she winked at us.

“You’re not thinking of staying on here, then,”

beamed the bright lighthouse at the Bailey.


Tired, but young, I was soothed by this

traveling on the sea.  Ship’s engines throbbed,

hummed, rocked us to sleep while moonlit

waters sprayed silver waves from our bow.

By night we sailed by the Isle of Man

through narrow seas dividing County Down

from dark lands in Galloway and Dumfries.


Then in the morning brightness someone said

“Paddy’s milestone,” looking at a great rock,

encrusted with white birds, rising higher

towards the heavens from the rolling sea.

Easterly of that was then our onward course,

on our starboard bow, the Mull of Kintyre.


Into the Clyde we sailed

after passing Ailsa Craig.


Years later I still recall that second day,

devouring eyes took in everything,

waves sliding past, tall purple mountains,

first so distant, then coming ever near.





Northwards we went, the waters narrowed.

Eastward then, sailing by Greenock’s forests

of great cranes, where other ships lay docked

as we glided by one more mighty rock,

Dumbarton’s ancient castle, seat of Kings,

brooding still o’er sea roads from Clydeside shores.


The waterway narrowed in so much

that children my own age, smiled, waved,

to the passing ships.  Smiling in return,

from our deck I too waved in answer,

feeling not lost, but warmly welcomed.


Along the Clyde we sailed,

Now so far from Ailsa Craig.


Then came the last few miles.  Rust coloured

hulls lay stern to the water where great ships

being built, cocooned in scaffolding

webs of steel lay lined along our way.


Somewhere there we berthed.  Leaving the ship,

we travelled on, not long now, at last then,

at journey’s final end our Granny’s arms

reached out.  There were hugs, there were salt tears,

there were kisses along with loving words,

“och, ma wee bairns!  Ma own wee bonny bairns!”


It was long we had sailed,

long, long, past great Ailsa Craig.


copyright Kevin Connelly 2012

%d bloggers like this: