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Poetry Pleases: Island Tragedy

Ann Danskin's poem recalls a long-ago disaster - a first and last sea-going for four young men.

Ann writes for Bonzer! magazine. Please do visit www.bonzer.org.au

A time and place for everything,
they say. The Garvallachs wait,
their feet in Hebridean waters.
Breakers boom, send long tongues
far in caves, explode within.
A thousand auks, kittiwakes, cry
and colonise steep ledges.

A shepherd over-winters. Tends his fifty sheep.
Warmly welcomes to his summer shore.
May, eighteen fifty one, four lads sailed
a broad-beamed “Orkney” boat, a double-ender.
Made safe to anchor. Spent the night in ceilidh.

Morning, they found a gale had risen.
Moved to leeward, behind a sister island.
Rowed, the sea hostile, raised sail, rounded,
were seen for the last time.

Near Lemreway, home on Lewis,
their people found the rudder,
salvaged it as foot-bridge. (Wood
was precious.) North, around Cape Wrath,
their Orkney boat was recognised.
Twice overturned, still journeying on.

A time and place for everything, they say.
For boys yet scarcely grown,
A first and last sea-going


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