Old Friends - Sligo Poets

Go to content

Main menu:

1913 > Sligo Poetry 1913 > Sligo Nationalist

Sligo Nationalist 20 September 1913

                OLD FRIENDS.
       (By "Captain Coal-Scuttle")
Author of "Along the Sligo Quay," etc., etc.

It’s four years ago since I left Sligo
   To take up a post down the North,
So I saved up some cash, and one day took a dash,
   To revisit the home of my birth.

The rain it came down, when I reached Sligo town,
   And just as I got off the train
I met my old friend "Peter," who sometimes acts as meter
   On River Plate boats in with grain.

We talked of old times, and of some of my rhymes,
   That I wrote when employed at his store,
And he told me a joke about sampling "karn,"
   And he laughed and he joked as of yore.

He got some holidays, at least so he says
   (For he didn’t get any last year);
So in frock coat and tile went to dear Mona’s Isle,
   People said "Here comes ‘Kelly,’ I’ll swear!"

Then the "Captain" I met, who said "Come for a wet,"
   As I don’t wear a "button" you see;
He still watches the wine that comes from the Rhine –
   Is a broker as well as J. P.

I was hailed then by "Terry" patching up the "Gatesherrie,"
   Quite close to the big Sugar Store,
And he told me a tale how he captured a whale
   Not a mile from the Rosses Point shore!

I saw Mr. Dunlop, who was one time a "cop,"
   Also "Nipper," and ex-R.I.C.;
He was sergeant, you "ken," over five or six men,
   But now he wields a pen on the "Qee."

Then I spied round a corner no little "Jack Horner,"
   But a gent, who was feeling A.1.
He said, "You look well, and a bit of a swell,
   But I hope you don’t carry a gun."

It’s ten years or more since he sailed the "Bowmore,"
   Well, it’s lucky no body was drowned;
For she’s now in dry dock, as she ran on a rock
   Not marked on the chart, I’ll be bound.

Then I crept like a mouse to a small wooden house,
   And was greeted by Mr. Tom B.;
He still wears a smile, for he’s making his "pile,"
   But he’s not "spliced," I’m sorry to see.

Then someone I spied, it’s Tom? No, I lied,
   But "Steward," both cheery and bright;
He still wears his good looks, and behind piles of books
   He’s busy from morning till night.

I bid him good-bye, said I "Now I’ll try
   To see my friend, Mr Al-geo,
Who works at the rail, in rain, snow or hail,
   And still goes up the lake for a row.

I walked round the bank, and as far as the tank,
   And the new railway sidings tried, too;
And when I came back from the Bundoran track
   I was told he was up in Belcoo.

Now, I came to a stand, for I saw a Red Hand
   Stuck up in each workingman’s coat.
If they don’t wear that same, they can go home again,
   For they won’t get a job at a boat.

Then I snipped up the brine, down at the Laird Line,—
   Messrs. Mahon and Boyers were there.
Archie told fairy tales about congers and whales,
   Which was not all "gospel," I fear.

Near the old "Coffer Dam" a straw-hatted man
   Was giving some fellows a hand;
He’s not very tall, though he once built a wall
   From the light-house to keep out the sand.

He stroked his moustache, and he said: "Well, I am dashed
   Is it you or your ghost that I see?"
Then he called Mr. Mallah, and said "Here’s this ‘fella,’
   He’ll be  making up rhymes about me."

I shook hands with those two, and round the road flew;
   Said I "now to Campbell’s I’ll steer."
They showed me a fan brought home from Japan,
   By the Colonel, when out there last year.

I left Willie and John, and a spurt I put on,
   For now it was getting quite late;
So being "T.T.," and not out for a spree,
   I made straight for Egan’s big gate.

Here Mr. MacHale, a typical Gael,
   Was glad to see me back again,—
Bid me "caed mille failthe," as I drank soda "watsh"
   That would equal the dearest champagne.

At Dolan’s old shop I then made a stop
   For the sound of machines reached my ear.
It once bore a sign that ran in this line;
   "We sell whiskey and porter and beer."

Now, in letters of green, very plain to be seen,
   A different wording was there:
Then said I "Holy smoke, for a bit of a joke
   I’ll see what they’re doing in here."

Away down the back, was my friend "Bernie Mack,"
   With a turn-screw held in his fist,
He said with a drawl "I knew you would call
   To the new ‘Sligo Nationalist.’"

There I saw my friend, "Jack," who works the "lino,"
   His verses are quite up to date,
He is losing his time making up local rhyme,—
   He should be a Poet Laureate.

Like a deer then I sped round the bridge to see "Ned"—
   An excellent fellow, I "know"—
But I missed him that day, he had just gone away
   For a week to the Dublin Horse Show.

Now, I’ll say so long! I must finish my song
   As I leave by the 10 o’clock train;
And in twelve months or more I will write the encore
   When I come back to Sligo again!

                                                          A. P. M.

This is a fascinating poem by a Sligo native who has moved 'down the north' to work. He credits himself with having written poetry, presumably similar sorts of verses, possibly published in a Sligo newspaper, of the kind John Gillen, mentioned as 'Jack' in stanza, was writing in 1913.

Judging by these verses A.P.M. was a much better writer than 'Jack' with a fluent style and a great ability to find rhymes. As well as lines 2 and 4 rhyming, each line 1 and 3 has internal rhymes.

The author mentions many Sligo characters, some by name, some by nickname, in the knowledge that their identy would be clear to readers. He does appear to have connections with the Quays and possibly may have worked there earlier.

Mona's Isle in stanza 4 appears to be the Isle of Man. Dunlop is probably Alexandewr Dunlop a Cavan-boen ex-R.I.C policeman living in Lynn's Place in 1911. Mr Al-geo (stanza 12) is Thomas
Algeo, also a Cavan native, who lived in Lord Edward Street in 1911 and was a railway inspector.

'Archie' who told tall tales was Archie
Mahon of Wolfe Tone Street, Sligo who was a commercial clerk presumably at the Laird Line offices. 'Mr Mallah' (stanza 17) was Joseph Mallagh, a Wine St. resident, Co. Armagh-born, civil engineer.

Colonel James Campbell (stanza 18) was chairman of Sligo Harbour Commissioners, director of Harper Campbell millers, of the Sligo Steamship Navigation Company and of the Sligo, Leitrim and Northern Counties Railway. He had gone on a world tour in 1912 because of ill-health.

'Mr. McHale' (stanza 20) was Patrick Joseph MacHale, a native of Ballina. He was involved in the G.A.A, the I.R.B., and was a founder member of the Wanderers Gaelic Club in Sligo. He was a commercial traveller for Egan's mineral waters. He filled in the 1911 census return in Irish, the 1901 return in English.

The poem is full of interesting references. Stanza 14 refers to the control by the Unions of employment on the quays as a result of the 1913 strike. Stanzas 21-24 describe his visit to the offices of the newly-established Sligo Nationalist in what was Dolan's shop.

Who was A.P.M.? I don't know but by searching in the 1911 census for Sligo-born residents in Belfast I found 26 year old Alfred Middleton
in Lomond St., Belfast, an electrician, in a boarding house. In 1901 he was living at home in Ballisodare. His father was Adam Middleton, manager of a corn mill. It is just possible that A.P.M. was Alfred Middleton a member of a well-know Sligo family and related to poet W.B. Yeats. Or maybe not.

Back to content | Back to main menu