Galloping Children

Galloping children

The ageing grey tenement released

it’s children on a fine day; bright, clear skies

and gentle breezes, one of those perfect days

in childhood, often recalled in fond

memories.  A white van pulled up and

my father and uncle, finished their

workday early for once, simply scooped

up all who played on the street, bundled

them in the back where they bounced around

happy in the mystery of where they

might land.  When their drive was done, released

once more, they looked around, wide eyed.

A stream rushed and tumbled over great

granite rocks while Scots pines soared so tall

and proud.  Specks of white fluff moved slowly

across the green heights of the hills above.

“They’re sheep,” my father explained before

turning to his brother, adding, “children

need a gallop every now and then.”


beyond ailsa craig (spoken)

A journey through some earliest memories and across the seas beyond great rocks to a safe haven’s shores

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

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