Perhaps I had ambitions to be an MP - or an undertaker!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

This is a photograph of me at the age of 11. We all had our photographs taken at school to commemorate the 1937 Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.


Next month sees the 130th anniversary of the Tay Bridge Disaster. On 28th December that year the bridge collapsed when a passenger train was crossing and 75 lives were lost. Recently I came across that famous epic by William McGonagall and here it is -

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay!
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.
'Twas about seven o'clock at night,
And the wind it blew with all its might,
And the rain came pouring down,
And the dark clouds seem'd to frown,
And the Demon of the air seem'd to say-
"I'll blow down the Bridge of Tay."
When the train left Edinburgh
The passengers' hearts were light and felt no sorrow,
But Boreas blew a terrific gale,
Which made their hearts for to quail,
And many of the passengers with fear did say-
"I hope God will send us safe across the Bridge of Tay."
But when the train came near to Wormit Bay,
Boreas he did loud and angry bray,
And shook the central girders of the Bridge of Tay
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.
So the train sped on with all its might,
And Bonnie Dundee soon hove in sight,
And the passengers' hearts felt light,
Thinking they would enjoy themselves on the New Year,
With their friends at home they lov'd most dear,
And wish them all a happy New Year.
So the train mov'd slowly along the Bridge of Tay,
Until it was about midway,
Then the central girders with a crash gave way,
And down went the train and passengers into the Tay!
The Storm Fiend did loudly bray,
Because ninety lives had been taken away,
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.
As soon as the catastrophe came to be known
The alarm from mouth to mouth was blown,
And the cry rang out all o'er the town,
Good Heavens! the Tay Bridge is blown down,
And a passenger train from Edinburgh,
Which fill'd all the peoples hearts with sorrow,
And made them for to turn pale,
Because none of the passengers were sav'd to tell the tale
How the disaster happen'd on the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.
It must have been an awful sight,
To witness in the dusky moonlight,
While the Storm Fiend did laugh, and angry did bray,
Along the Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay,
Oh! ill-fated Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay,
I must now conclude my lay
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
That your central girders would not have given way,
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side with buttresses,
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build,
The less chance we have of being killed.


I was delighted to find this short video of Roger McGough reading one of his poems, “A Fine Romance.”  Older folk will remember that in the 1960s  he was a member of the Scaffold, the comedy group who had a No 1 hit in 1968 with “Lily the Pink.” Since then he has become well-known as a very talented performance poet.



When composing haiku I have always tried to obey the instruction that the poem should have 17 syllables, distributed 5-7-5 over the 3 lines. And I must add that I have been following what many others do.

The basis for the rule lay in the belief that this was the pattern in Japan where haiku originated. I now find out that the Japanese writers don’t count syllables, they count sound units, which is a very different thing.

The problem is not an easy one for us to understand, but perhaps this will help. In the West the word “Haiku” has 2 syllables “high-ku”, but in Japan it has 3 sound units “ha-ee-ku.” So you see, we are talking about different things.

This has completely changed my approach to writing haiku, and my simple definition now would be - a short poem of 3 lines, where the middle line is slightly longer, and in which the writer tries to convey in as few words as possible a moment in time. Some aspect of nature is usually involved.

With this new concept in mind, I am opening the HAIKU HOMESTEAD blog again, beginning on Wednesday 2nd December -

And here’s a haiku to keep you going till next week -

on the washing line
a pair of frozen trousers
at attention


FORGOTTEN FAVOURITES.  I’m sure younger folk will think this is awful, but people my age will love to hear it once again - “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic” played by Henry Hall and his Orchestra.


SCOTTISH TALES FROM THE OTHER WORLD this Friday - “The Story of Norrie’s Law”


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