Tuck-up Poems

Like most kids, I did not want to go to bed. But I did wanted to be tucked up and read to, so it was a dilemma – which the tuck-ups won. Mum and Dad used to read to us, mostly books (the phantom tollbooth comes to mind) or stories (dad burning the hole in the chair, mum falling into a blackberry bush). Funnily enough though, one thing I remember especially fondly are poems, and here are a couple. I can also recite them… though get a bit rusty halfway the second. 

Question: Can you recognise the authors?

Mum – The Fiddler of Dooney 

When I play on my fiddle in Dooney, folks dance like the waves of the sea

My cousin is priest in Kilvarnet, my cousin in Moharabuiee

When I passed my brother and cousin, the read in their book of prayer

I read in my book of songs, I bought at the Sligo Fair.

When we come at the end of time, to Peter sitting in state

He’ll smile at us three cousins, but he’ll send me first through his gate

For the good are always the merry, save by an evil chance

And the Merry love the Fiddle, and the Merry love to dance

And when the folks their spy me, they’ll all come up to me 

Singing “here’s the fiddler of Dooney!” and they’ll dance like the waves of the sea.

FiddlerDad – Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat

There’s a whisper down the line at 11.39
When the Night Mail’s ready to depart,
Saying `Skimble where is Skimble has he gone to hunt the thimble?
We must find him orthe train can’t start.’
All the guards and all the porters and the stationmaster’s daughters
They are searching high and low,
Saying `Skimble where is Skimble for unless he’s very nimble
Then the Night Mail just can’t go.’
At 11.42 then the signal’s nearly due
And the passengers are frantic to a man –
Then Skimble will appear and he’ll saunter to the rear:
He’s been busy in the luggage van!
   He gives one flash of his glass-green eyes
      And the signal goes `All Clear!’
   And we’re off at last for the northern part
      Of the Northern Hemisphere!

You may say that by and large it is Skimble who’s in charge
Of the Sleeping Car Express.
From the driver and the guards to the bagmen playing cards
He will supervise them all, more or less.
Down the corridor he paces and examines all the faces
Of the travellers in the First and in the Third;
He establishes control by a regular patrol
And he’d know at once if anything occurred.
He will watch you without winking and he sees what you are thinking
And it’s certain that he doesn’t approve
Of hilarity and riot, so the folk are very quiet
When Skimble is about and on them ove.
   You can play no pranks with Skimbleshanks!
      He’s a Cat that cannot be ignored;
   So nothing goes wrong on the Northern Mail
      When Skimbleshanks is aboard.

Oh it’s very pleasant when you have found your little den
With your name written up on the door.
And the berth is very neat with a newly folded sheet
And there’s not a speck of dust on the floor.
There is every sort of light – you can make it dark or bright;
There’s a button that you turn to make a breeze.
There’s a funny little basin you’re supposed to wash your face in
And a crank to shut the window if you sneeye.
Then the guard looks in politely and will ask you very brightly
`do you like your morning tea weak or strong?’
But Skimble’s just behind him andwas ready to remind him,
For Skimble won’t let anything go wrong.
   And when you creep into your cosy berth
      And pull up the counterpane,
You are bound to admit that it’s very nice
To know that your won’t be bothered by mice –
You can leave all that to the Railway Cat,
   The Cat of the Railway Train!
In the middle of the night he is always fresh and bright;
Every now and then he has a cup of tea
With perhaps a drop of Scotch while he’s keeping on the watch,
Only stopping here and there to catch a flea.
You were fast asleep at Crewe and so you never knew
That he was walking up and down the station;
You were sleeping all the while he was busy at Carlisle,
Where he greets the stationmaster with elation.
But you saw him at Dumfries, where he summons the police
If there’s anything they ought to know about:
when you get to Gallowgate there you do not have to wait –
For Skimbleshanks will help you to get out!
He gives you a wave of his long brown tail
Which says: `I’ll see you again!
You’ll meet without fail on the Midnight Mail

The Cat of the Railway Train.’



2 Responses to “Tuck-up Poems”

  1. greeneyedmonster Says:

    I know the answers. Na na na na na!!!!

    And here’s one more, from walks around K2! Of course, we hardly use pens any more …


    Between my finger and my thumb
    The squat pen rests; as snug as a gun.

    Under my window a clean rasping sound
    When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
    My father, digging. I look down

    Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
    Bends low, comes up twenty years away
    Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
    Where he was digging.

    The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
    Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
    He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
    To scatter new potatoes that we picked
    Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

    By God, the old man could handle a spade,
    Just like his old man.

    My grandfather could cut more turf in a day
    Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
    Once I carried him milk in a bottle
    Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
    To drink it, then fell to right away
    Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
    Over his shoulder, digging down and down
    For the good turf. Digging.

    The cold smell of potato mold, the squelch and slap
    Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
    Through living roots awaken in my head.
    But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

    Between my finger and my thumb
    The squat pen rests.
    I’ll dig with it.

  2. prajita Says:

    it is so nice
    most of all the railway cat(skimbleshanks)was so nice

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