A wonderful night of poetry to celebrate Liverpool’s Maritime Tradition in the magnificent surrounding of Liverpool's Town Hall.
Sponsored by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Councillor Sharon Sullivan and hosted by Roger Cliffe-Thompson.
With thanks to our judges : Roger Phillips - Radio Merseyside: Jeff Dunn- Schools liaison officer: Alison Chisholm-Windows Project and Liverpool Lord Mayor Councillor Sharon Sullivan.
Special thanks to the Liverpool Sea Cadet Drum Cor, for their stunnning display:Commodore Baum (Naval Regional Commander Northern England), for donating the winners prizes- A day at Sea in a Royal Navy ship:Clare Maher, Communications Assistant Liverpool City Council and Tanya Baucher - Lord Mayor's Secretary, whose incredible hard work and dedication made this event possible.
* The judges decided that the finalists’ poems were of such quality that they will definitely be included in the forthcoming book of poems called 'Mezzanine of Maritime' in aid of the Sea Cadets.
18 & UNDER
The Wandering Seagull by Joseph Murphy
My Father’s Voyages by Annie Evans
My Father’s Voyages
My father took voyages for a living, brought back
the greater world outside Liverpool,
and monochrome days,
to us in nineteen sixty three.
an old white sheet draped
as a screen,
the silent cine-film began across oceans,
somewhere colourful and warm.
Dad on deck in his
white short-sleeved shirt,
shorts, officer’s hat and epaulettes
trimmed in black and gold.
Younger men in costumes;
Their blackened faces and
makeshift crowns – crossing the equator.
King Neptune’s procession
to the whirr of yesterday’s projector.
Then, those names of places called out
I’d never heard of; Mombasa, Mauritius,
the Suez canal.
And talk of cargoes of sugar
as we watched semi-naked,
dark-skinned men row
boats close by the ship.
I sensed the meaning of exotic
long before I met the word.
Thousands of years have passed
since I fell as a single snowflake
in the entrenched night
of Artic winter:
since I fused with my siblings
in the alabaster and indigo of glacier
edging towards waiting water.
After the calving
came the slow float south
in company with my brothers,
then, increasingly in solitude
as I prepared for diminishing.
But in ice calm
of the first watch,
fate threw the titan in my path.
Rivet ridged steel raked my flank,
cutting, clawing, gouging;
with shards of my ripped torso.
The titan recoiled,
screamed its wounds,
and in the bone-crack
of snapping girder and spar
disgorged its cargo of flesh;
some into brittle boats,
others grasping at flotsam,
to the suck of ocean’s depth.
And I, not of their world,
who had not sought
this kiss of metal,
could do nothing
but drift towards evaporation.
Now I sail a sea of sky
as cumulus, nimbus and stratus,
rain down my guilt,
look for the rainbow.
A Seafaring Family History
Early, we knew the tides
The gangway slope, the Hilbre walk
Shifting sands, shipwrecks, storms
The treachery of channels and cut-you-off currents
Tales of seafarers sailing out of Liverpool
Victorian Jonathan, sailed on the Zeta
Salvaged on Ranger, Hyaena
Polishing his diver’s helmet
Checking the nuts, oiling the joints
All the way to Coquimbo and beyond
Edwardian emigrating Frank
Off to find his Australian railway dream;
Merchant seaman, Bootle Gordon
Torpedoed twice, swimming, rescued, surviving
Stewarding peacetime ferries
Liverpool to Ireland, to and fro
1960s bowler-hatted businessmen
Walking all the way to work, across the water
Anticlockwise on the upper deck;
Mini-skirted teenage me – clockwise
Now Alex tacks and trims the sails
Raises the spinnaker
Racing round the Mersey buoys
Pluckington, Dingle, Egg.
Regattas of triangle white
Pass by Perch Rock
Out past the bar into Liverpool Bay
Great-grandfather, great-uncle, uncle, son, and me
All bound to the waves, the pull of the sea
It’s a steaming bowl of “Scouse”, this city.
It’s all nourishment and comfort, and brassy. Bold.
It’s a melee. A smorgasbord. A cooking pot of people past. From afar and of old. Sailors looking skyward to follow stars. And it’s still navigating rough waters. It’s full of folk playing their part. Weaving webs of tales that bond in time and space. Heroic and unsavoury. Stories of Vikings and slavery. This place knows that the sum of the individual parts is more than whole.
From the start this simple fishing village grew into the Empire’s heart, knew it’s own distinct style, so home grown. Today’s scouse voice is “Made Up” from travellers from distant lands Even the word scouse arrived on ships bringing new blood and a flood of exotic lexicon.
This pot of scouse has a dash of Russia borsch, Irish broth and enough of every stew from every place to feed its soul.
It knows it’s uniqueness, is bonded, with webbed stories, tales on tides. This city sings strong with sea shanties. It’s music is “sound” - a pulsing heartbeat.
And it faces adversity with relentless humour. And a determination, for recognition of truth, For justice. This city shuns pity, is what it is and in the face of denial and lies, it fights with pride. Fierce and worthy of any Viking. When 96 hearts stopped beating, it did not forget.
And this “Manc” will hereby declare what no Manc openly says – that in honesty… there’s a touch of jealousy. Cos Liverpool knows its identity. Has a backbone as stiff and as strong as any mast that holds the mainsail. And so it sails on. Head high.
Flying flags in colours beyond the red and blue. For Liverpool is a pool of many hues and continues to embrace the new. But remembers is past too.
And just as scouse tastes better left a few days in the pan, this place ripens with age.
Hear its pounding heart. Share it. Proclaim it.
NICETO DE LARINAGA -the final convoy.
He replayed it like the ‘Pathe’ news and ‘Gone with the Wind’.
Blind-enveloping, blue-green flash. Deaf-making blast.
Water wall sweeping away standbys at starboard boats.
She sank quickly.
Sucking them down to come back up in the oil and filth,
amongst the coconut cargo, bobbing and glowing in a red dark.
Then, escorts swept in with scrambling nets,
through the debris of the fuel fired night-time.
Now, a backrest on the Ponta Delgada breakwater.
A pack of Black Cat cigarettes. A box of Swan Vesta.
A warm September evening in the Azores.
He was saved. Plucked from the oil-calmed flotsam.
Midnight. 22nd September 1941.
Midnight at home was a time for sirens.
The rush to shelters or under stairs.
The old school on Bedford Road, gone in the May Blitz.
Clock remained. Time stood still.
The Rotunda gone. Lewis’s gone. Kirkdale destroyed.
Searchlights, bombs, ak-ak , parachute mines.
Incendiaries and raging fires.
The screaming. Burnt and injured. Trapped and dying.
Durning Road Shelter. Wrong place, wrong time people.
Like stokers and greasers. Wrong place. Wrong time.
They burst from the engine room fore-hatch.
As she slid. Going down by the stern.
Men clutching at thwarts and stanchions.
The children were moved out to Melling.
And there they played in fields and farms,
while their older sisters jived at the Grafton.
All were of themselves. What else was there?
Another cigarette. As more seamen straggled ashore.
Seven ships lost since leaving Freetown.
Eighteen dead but three hundred souls saved.
Liverpool was suffering. Homes were gone. Ships were gone.
But time would not stand still while the people survived.
The sun dipped to the horizon in a blood orange sky.
The seafarers were silent.
Tomorrow would be a better day.
FINALISTS 18 AND UNDER:
A Dying Port
The river spits out darkened sky,
As the great, vast galleons drift by
On the water.
Bringing back the cargo from far distant lands,
Now so far from the golden sands,
On the water.
Triangles formed in the way they would trade,
Through these days, our city was made
On the water.
Laden with white and brown gold,
Arriving until the day turned cold
On the water.
Elegantly flaunting jewels of the globe,
Silently reminiscing about the days of old
On the water.
Now a shadow of the berth it once was,
Memories dead and heroes lost
On the water.
Boxes and crates,
Filled with coffee and grapes,
Indian spices and fruits just ripe,
And other useful things like metals and pipes.
Life is good down in the docks,
Except for the water in my socks.
On Fisherman's ships you find crabs and fish,
And with our share we make a good dish.
We only find work when ships are in,
And materials damaged are placed in the bin.
Rummaging through boxes to find what is needed,
“Stop what you're doing!” The ship's captain pleaded.
We don't really get paid much but when we do,
We look after our families with money and food.
Often we aren’t paid enough and are forced to steal,
Robbing from merchants and Fisherman we get fish and eel.
Some ships are tall
Others are small
But they’re all filled with goods
And if they don't pay as we’d take everything if we could
The Maritime Time line
Imagine Liverpool, 1854
The ships enter proudly through the dock, laden with cargo,
The captain billows commands to the young workboys,
Imagine Liverpool, 1920
The fishermen who works for his family to survive,
The echoing warehouses, as cold as a freezer
Imagine Liverpool 1939
The soldiers of world war two, escorting vessels,
The worried wives pulling re their husbands back,
Imagine Liverpool, 1972
an abandoned, isolated dock full of sadness,
The cold atmosphere with no spirit,
The children are full of laughter and joy and the docks are working again,
Although the Maritime Timeline is still remembered
The wandering seagull
I perch myself upon the docks
and I watch the boats come in and go out.
From China and Africa; from all around the world they come,
bringing imports of wondrous delights.
I joyfully watch these foreign ships
and then I wonder...
I swiftly fly along the Mersey waters,
allowing the salty air to fill my lungs.
Hearing the foghorns ring as a new ship arrives,
Liverpool makes another profit,
Liverpool makes another trade
and then I wonder ...
I feed off the bread crumbs given by the friendly passers’ by,
and anything I can pick from these ship’s fruitful cargo.
Oh, what a life!
Oh, what sights I see!
Oh, what would I be without my Liverpool?
And then I wonder...
And then I wonder why such a Seagull as me,
has been given a life like this,
were Liverpool gives me sea
and where Liverpool gives me salt
Liverpool and its ships and Liverpool and its River
Am I in heaven and I wonder?
History in a nutshell
The Albert Dock was built
by Jesse Hartley dock engineer,
The greatest of all time
It started outquite small
compared to London and Bristol
but it made foreign trade with its goods to sell
like the shotgun and the pistol.
Liverpool had its dark
The terrible work of the
However the city stood its ground
on which today our modern foundations are laid.
Then came the Titanic
As it was thought to be
The first of its kind
A White Star Line luxury.
War was declared
The fight was on
We hurried to the Anderson Shelter
A strongmilitary campaign
With the battle of the
A dreadful German failure
The allies were ecstatic.
After the war, ships came
All was quiet and well
Liverpool would go down in history
With a magnificent tale to tell
The 70’s and
Is finally complete.
The QE2 and QE3 are in
Part of an entirely new fleet.