Poems 26

             Twenty Years Ago


Twenty years ago I knew

Riding hard a cycling crew

Whose mileage on a Sunday ride

Would range the country far and wide

          Twenty years ago.


Twenty years ago they’d meet

At time when cycling was feat

Every day was heaven-sent

The weather called for no comment

          Twenty years ago.


Twenty years ago Tom rode

Sixty miles to one he woo’ed

Sixty back on Sunday night

And worked next morning fit and bright

          Twenty years ago.


Twenty years ago old Fred

Slaved all the week for daily bread:

When weekend came you’d find him fit

To take aboard his camping kit

          Twenty years ago.


Twenty years ago there sped

From Abram way another Fred

Who toiled in pit the lifelong day

Yet chose the weekend cycling way

          Twenty years ago.


Twenty years ago Bill’s mind

Was on his wayward flock inclined

Until a damsel he espied

And from the fold he strayed aside

          Twenty years ago.


Twenty years ago two chaps

Famed far and wide for strange mishaps

Blackberry Joe and Wally Kay

Sped on their erratic way

          Twenty years ago.


Twenty years ago one Jack –

At anything he’d have a crack

I think he found a final cure

Upon a Devon tandem tour

          Twenty years ago.


In twenty years I see a change

As the old horizons range

But Joe and Bill, a loyal pair

The rest is just as if it were

          A Hundred Years Ago!               Summer 1948


                       By George!

 At How Stean Gorge, by George!

Just watch Tom Gorge, by George!

With eggs and ham, of damn

Aye, genuine eggs and ham!


At How Stean Beck, by heck!

Tom had a reck, by heck!

While we sat glum, by gum

Honestly  feeling glum!


Oh what a biz, gee whizz!

That lunch of his, gee whizz!

That was a feed indeed

A thundering jolly good feed!


And what had we, by gee!

Poached egg and tea, by gee!

The same to pay, I say

We’d just the same to pay!


And now I’ll add, by gad!

A moral sad, by gad!

Take all you can, old man

Take all you jolly well can!                   After Easter 1949


Poems 25

Young Handel-Bar       (with apologies to Sir Walter Scott)

O Young Handel-Bar is come out of the West,

In all the wide borders his tandem is best

Save adjustable spanner, his weapons had none –

He rode without kit, except a half comb

So faithful to touring, so fast and so far

There never was a cyclist like Young Handel-Bar


He stayed not to brake, he stopped not for stone

He bumped and he bounced, for surface was none;

But ‘ere he alighted at the Youth Hostel gate

The bride had consented, the gallant came late:

For a laggard at travel, who never rode far

Was to wed Freewheel Fannie from Bold Handel-Bar


So bravely he entered the common-room hall

Among the brides clubmates and family and all

The spoke Fannie’s father, a hand on a spanner

(While the poor craven bridegroom betrayed timid manner)

“Oh come ye by cycle, or come ye by car

“Twill cost you a shilling, my bold Handel-Bar!”


“I long rode with your daughter”, young Handel-Bar cried

From Lands End to Groat’s house, my tandem astride

And a shilling, my warden, I never did pay

When a sixpence sufficed my lodging to stay

There are maidens in Britain more lovely by far

And sixpenny hostels for Young Handel-Bar!


“For the sake of old times, before I depart

“A health and a dance I crave, then I will start”

The father demurred and his wife disagreed

And the groom sulked dissent like the wormy bread

But the company present approval did dare

And that was enough for young Handel-Bar.


The bride brought the teapot, our brave brought the cup

And quaffed in one gulp the whole of it up –

Although tea was rationed, and sugar as well,

Our hero had scorched through dale and o’er fell

Then he took her soft hand ere her parent could bar –

“Now, can you pedal?” whispered young Handel-Bar


So stately his form, so lovely her face

There never was hostel such couple did grace

While mother did fret, and father raised Cain

And the weather outside ‘gan pouring with rain

They were off on the tandem, by bush, bank, and scar

“They’ll follow on singles, quoth bold Handel-Bar.


There was mounting ‘mong Wheelers and Clarion too

While father and mother tailed after the crew;

There was racing and chasing o’er moor and o’er lea

But Freewheel Fannie ne’er again did they see

With his half comb as trousseau she travelled so far

And her guardian companion was Young Handel-Bar                  January 1941 



The Islands of the Blest


There’s a path beneath the Bens

          Leading on towards the west

O’er the muir and through the glens

          To the Islands ot the Blest!


By Arkaig and Dessary

          Plodding on with scarce a rest

Mountain pass and inland sea

          To the Islands of the Blest!


Now, what memories awake!

          Limping down to Inverie

Upon the boat with creamy wake

          And the Islands of the Sea.


Towering heights above the Kyle

          Cloudlets floating on their crest

Restless sea, and rock-bound isle –

          Hail! The Islands of the Blest                         December 1945



Poems 24

                              Annalong   (What’s in a name)


I travelled down from Belfast Town

          By sea-fringed I ran along

Where mountain slopes come sweeping down

          To meet the waves at Annalong


 To Annalong I ran along

            The lilting name of Annalong

I sang to every man along

               The swinging road to Annalong!


There is no fame of ancient name,

          No promenade to scan along;

And no one wished, whoever came

          To linger long in Annalong.


To Annalong I ran along –

           The striding road to Annalong

Fly along, fan along

                Hie along to Annalong!


The big ships ride on Belfast tide

           They count the world their span along,

While hugging close the harbour side

          The little ships of Annalong.


To Annalong I ran along –

            Sing a song of Annalong!

Play along; plan along

               Plod along to Annalong!


Now I proclaim, what’s in a name

               That sends me fast as can along!

It could not ever be the same

                  When once I’d looked on Annalong.


To Annalong, I ran along –

            The lovely name of Annalong!

Lin-along, Lan-along

                 Love-along to Annalong!                     Feb 19, 1937

For those of a curious nature, Annalong is on the eastern coast of Northern Ireland close to the Mourne Mountains, slightly north of Kilkeel.



                              The Mess of Pottage


I’m just mutton dressed as lamb,

That’s the kind of man I am

Apeing youth, but ageing fast

A regular icon-o-clast!


I’ve frolicked in my early spring

And taken flight on fancy’s wing

I’ve ridden down the miles all day

With on my lips a roundelay


The singular joys of riding hard

To distant shires – no distance barred

And constant, changeful scenes to see

I thought myself an entity


Then when my early summer came

Pursuit of camping was my aim –

To kick my heels on rubber bed

While framing wisdoms in my head.


The sun was bright, the world still young

The mind was active, strong the lung

A pot of gold was mine to see

And satisfied security.


I’d known the gold on moor and fell

When Autumn spread his lavish spell

Now Autumn holds his hand for me –

A single pot of gold I see!


Not what I’ll do is now my theme

But what I did the constant theme

When in my pensive chair I brood –

How often pensive is my mood!


I’m just mutton dressed as lamb

That’s the kind of man I am

Apeing youth but ageing fast

A regular iconoclast.                  26 Dec 1938

Written beside Bassenthwaite for an old chum.

Poems 23

                              Lines under Duress       On a broiling Day


When from a week of heated strife –

The desperate round of daily life

We turn to seek relief and ease

Where sights and scents of Nature please

Brief hours of rest and peace to feel –

The balm industry’s scars to heal

We greet the waking summer sun

And stir, lest precious minutes run.


But the joys of the sun are haply these:-

The midges nip on tender knees;

Vagrant wasps on the wandering wing

In search of unclothed arms to sting;

The bee in quest of honey sweet

Just flecks the neck with puncture neat

The tiny things that crawl and creep

On human skin make lighter leap:

And myriad life in earth and air

Make summer more than one can bear.


The lightsome play of solar rays

On skin yet white from sunless days

May from refreshing caress turn

Into a fire of torturing burn

The winding lane one follows far

Are steeped in dust by every car.

Illusion is a mental sense

Banished by experience;

And summer joys seen from afar

Are thus seen where they cannot mar

‘Tis good to dream of ‘Flaming June’

And hold the dream at Winter’s noon

E’en while I sit to make my song

I fear I dare not sit for long

With mustering force the pesterous clan

Precipitate the Flight of Man.                  Hoghton Bottoms, June 1934





When Easter comes the highway hums

(Like it always hums when Easter comes)

The whole long day with a rare array

Of miscellaneous roadsters gay

          All of them off on holiday!


Brief liberty – a world set free –

A moving scene of pageantry

The land is gay in spring array

From town and city, bent on play

          The world is making holiday!


There’s a tandem old with its riders bold

(What tales that tandem could unfold)

And the riders gray, whose youthful day

Is like their tandem’s, year’s away,

          Both of them off on a holiday!


And the youngster green – perhaps over keen

Each of them perched on an aged machine

As forth they sway in a wayward way

From peep o’dawn till the end of day

          All of them off on a holiday!


Oh, what delight from morn till night

Be Easter dull or be it bright

And what care they for another day –

Today will soon be yesterday –

          Today they are all on holiday!                  Easter 1934