Thursday 23 August 2018


for my father

On Sundays we walked the line
from Drumglass to Edendork
You telling us of the time
you drove the  steam train
All the way to Cookstown.
Nettles stung our calves
as we leapt from one sleeper to another,
Sleepers that would later be ripped up
to bolster flower beds In suburbia.

On weekdays after school
we played at the freight train station
where you, as foreman, presided
braced and waist-coated,
Unloading and selecting goods for onward
delivery. Punching cards, whose presence 
or absence of holes, gave data. 
Overseeing the No 50
Fill up from the water tank.

We leapt on and off box cars
and covered wagons and hoppers
Until the engine began to groan
and chuff and emit steam
and hiss and lumber to a start,
Its cranks sprung into arm,
elbow, shoulder action,
Propelling the great wheels
around a parabolic
curve, under the Milltown
tunnel, heading for Derry

Until the ton miles hauled
per unit of energy consumed
was deemed too low,
The freight train redundant,
And you, after decades
of labour were let go,

The freight train station in Dungannon closed in February 1965. It was not until August 1965 that The UK Redundancy Payment Act addressed comprehensively the question of severance payment  for redundant workers.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2018

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