Friday, 21 October 2016

First Television: A Poem to Remember Aberfan

By Kevin McMahon

50 years ago today, on 21 October 1966, a mountain of coal waste collapsed in a lethal avalanche into a school and houses in the village of Aberfan in Wales. 144 people, including 116 children, were killed. I wrote this poem in remembrance of those who died, and those who bore and still bear the grief of the Aberfan disaster.  

A poem

Photo: Danielclauzier (licensed under CCA). 
21 October 1966

Excitement welled like an unseen spring,
That last day before the half-term break.
With skies dark and thick as coal sludge, 
The rain – for the second day that week – 
Had left us trapped in classrooms
Behind high, steamed and streaming windows.
I ached for the release of the evening bell.
Lessons ambled past my reverie,
Anticipating Bilko’s antics,
Concocting Oxo-family tableaux, 
A cocoon of laughter, where Michael Miles 
Presided over “Yes-No interludes”.

Unleashed by school’s end we ran,
A yelping avalanche splitting the gloom.
A knot of women huddled sombre at the gate,
Heads scarfed against the rain, in quiet talk.
Blushing at my mother’s long embrace,
And pulling at the hand that gripped my own –
With more than usual tightness – 
I rattled out my plans, my hopes,
As she palmed the raindrops from her face.

It sat, intruding on the normal,
On splayed and spindly legs,
Chairs, newly shifted to strange places,
Shrank the little parlour.
Its unfamiliar light transformed
Our faces, pallid as we watched 
A silent throng of mothers 
Where the gates had been,
Heads scarfed against the rain. 
They stood and stared at rooftops
Protruding from the spoil,
And waited for their children.

Photo 'Condensation on a Window in Wexford, Ireland', by Danielclauzier (licensed under CCA). 
Text: © Kevin McMahon
Kevin has been a member of Manchester Irish Writers since 1998 – with a few years’ absence due to work commitments prior to his retirement!  He has contributed to the group’s publications “The Retting Dam”, “Stones of the Heart” and “Changing Skies”, and regularly performs at the group’s events.  He is a former winner of the “New Writing” award at Listowel Writers’ Week in Country Kerry, and has been shortlisted for a number of other awards for memoirs and short stories.  With Alrene Hughes, Kevin co-edited the publication of monologues arising from the “Changing Skies” project.  His scripts have been professionally performed in various venues, and he has had poetry broadcast on the BBC.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Proclamation for All: A Poem

By Bridie Breen


The scroll of proclamation
rolls words off my tongue.
One hundred years on
Easter 1916 bleats from within
the Risen lamb that bled into veins
of the men and women who testified
to the call to rise, to stand united.

A furnace to fire eternal endurance
through the lilt of a freedom song
Each Irish man and woman
Every daughter and son felt the fist of change
It pounded across the land.
Demanding choices to be made 
lines to be drawn, sides to divide
and new history to form.

A mere century on from Grattan’s demise
the tears of many were shed
Emancipation the sought after prize
Innocents died in the fury
while the raw truth of the cause
forced the iron claw to unfurl
Dominance no longer appeased the masses.

The pulse of men whose hearts
 raced as their pens scribed
In a time when signatures sealed their fate
Markers of rebellion, so distinct
they were sought out
to be executed.

History coddled the deep 
mourning of generations
The road ahead transformed
 beyond belief.
Regimes of colonial past 
illuminated   by the rising dawn. 
Home ruled hands may not have grasped
the essence of Irish hearts
Their entrenched will to change
The question remains, as to where we’d be
if the blood of those in 1916 
Became names on a chalked board
Erased  out of our imaginings.

Text © Bridie Breen.
Images are in the Public Doman via Wikimedia Commons.

Bridie has been a member of Manchester Irish Writers for quite a few years. Although her first love is poetry, she writes on all topics. She has contributed to the group’s publications “Stones of the Heart” and “Changing Skies”. Her Changing Skies piece is available to download as a voice over. She regularly performs at the group’s events. She has had successful collaborations with New Attitude theatre and Emerge theatre in the past and more recently performed with Athlone Poetry in the Park group. She has taken her love of poetry to local cafe settings. She enjoys writing short scripts too. Her wish is to have a poetry anthology published. In the meantime, she’ll be trying out at performance style poetry venues to showcase new work in the coming months.

Bridie wrote 'Proclamation for All' for MIW's commemorative event, '1916: The Risen Word', which was performed at the Irish World Heritage Centre, Manchester on March 10 2016. MIW received the generous support of the Embassy of Ireland for this event.