Tuesday, 20 October 2015


… Maureen Clifford © The #ScribblyBark Poet ...

They worked because none wanted to play in the hunger games
and charity was thin and sparse they found.
They worked to bring earths riches to the daylight up above
and gleaned her wealth from deep beneath the ground.
The work was hot and dirty and every man was scarred
and every face was blackened when they surfaced in the yard
and every man and boy had calloused  hands  and arms as hard
as Ironbark, from pick and shovel work.

Here lives were caught between days long and nights of endless heat,
their days were spent in darkness underground
with nought  but just a carbide lamp to shed a gleam of light
and the endless ring of picks the only sound.
Railway Bridge over the Bremer
Beneath their feet were iron rails on which coal wagons ran,
a pit pony was in the shaft when each new shift began,
a padded cap on each small head to help avoid the pain
to furry heads bumping against rock ceilings.

The Rhonda Colliery at Ipswich had its share of these
small ponies with short thick legs like small trees,
though what they lacked in size they had in muscle so it seems
for they pulled the laden wagons with such ease.
And every pony had two men ministering to its needs,
two blokes who thought the world of their little valiant steed.
At knock off time each pony followed the one in the lead
up tunnels to daylight at the surface.

At times the Bremer River would have a hissy fit
and spread her muddy waters cross the town,
the brown and turgid waters would flood low lying shafts
Palais Hotel at Ipswich
in the Eclipse mine seven men were drowned.
The Bremer rose a foot an hour – rose more than thirty feet
it lapped the Palais balcony up there on Nicholas Street,
inundated the Railway station, man could not compete
with the floodwaters of 1893.

And now we still mine coal here but no longer underground.
The Rhondda colliery has long been gone,
and Aberdare and Prior’s Pit are merely names now heard
though few who hear them know where they belong
in the history of Ipswich, where our town is built on blood
of those hard men who defined us,  gave their lives to coal and flood,
and the Bremer still  can turn our red dust into viscid mud.
It’s a working town, it’s my town – this is Ipswich.

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