Dedicated to my late Father.
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You were born in a working class family
In a Yorkshire mining town;
Your father had moved from Ireland
So as not to be trodden down.
He marched to the pit each morning,
Long before breakfast time.
He staggered home at the end of the day
Covered with sweat and grime.
A child throughout the First World War,
You were a star at the primary school.
The Parish Priest said “He must go on,
Young Jack is nobody’s fool”.
Your Dad replied in a tired voice
“Book learning’s all very fine,
But what’s the use of Grammar School
When he’s going to go down the mine?”
Your mum said “I’ve raised six children,
Worked my fingers to the bone,
With nought to show but grey hair and bills
And nothing to call our own.”
She squared up to her husband
With a determined look on her face;
“We’ll do what it takes to give him a chance
To shake off the dust of this place.”
First child to go to Grammar School,
It filled your parents with pride.
Your brothers and sisters cheered you on;
You were the hope of the side.
Then you went off to the city
To see what career you could find,
With relief and excitement at leaving
The slag heaps and squallor behind.
Your brains and passion for service
Brought success in the retail trade;
With a wife and family, house and home,
It seemed like you had it made.
You had become the youngest manager
Of a national retail store,
When Hitler marched into Poland
And you were called off to war.
In North Africa and in Europe
You served your country well;
And counted yourself lucky
To have survived the combat hell.
But after the hero’s welcome home
And you went to regain your job;
“There are no positions vacant here
Still, we can let you have a few bob.”
You quickly learned that all the best jobs
Stayed with those who were ruled unfit
To serve in the war with no room to spare
For those who had done their bit.
Resentful, you moved from town to town,
But no matter how hard you tried,
You could not settle for menial jobs
So you went down a slippery slide.
You became a restless wanderer;
Alcohol took over your life.
Bitterness overwhelmed your heart
And in anger you turned on your wife;
Precious possessions were broken,
Trust and relationships torn.
Despite all that in ‘46
Another son was born.
Turning your back on England
You joined the great migration
To Australia for a brand new start
In a much more grateful nation.
You were able to settle with wife and child
At least long enough to see
Your youngest son sink roots and grow
And become the best he could be.
It is many years since your restless ways
Took you back to England’s shores
To live out your days in your old home town
And to walk upon the moors.
Now that your body is down with the coal
Underground in that far away land,
Your spirit must know wherever it goes,
That I finally understand.
Tony Crehan 2011
(WWII Photo scanned from family album)