Union Songs

John Howard's Grave

A song by Dermott Ryder©Dermott Ryder 2006

As I walk out o'er potter's field,
I spied a marker, weathered and grim.
John Howard lies here beneath, it said,
by this simple plaque we honour him.

I'm glad you're here was my first thought,
with that dark stone upon your head,
and the gusting wind and the chilling rain,
cold guardians of your lonely bed.

I stood beside John Howard's grave,
that looks out o'er Canberra Town,
while the fetid corpse moved in its earth
and made a mournful, desolate sound.

'Why am I here in this dreadful place,'
he cried from his forgotten grave,
'my body abandoned to hungry worms,
no pleading prayer my soul to save?'

'And who are you and what do you do?'
He demanded of me in his tedious voice.
'I'm one of the hungry, working poor,'
I replied, 'but I am not this way by choice'.

'I once rejoiced in well-paid work,
my wife and kids were in safe hands,
but now our lives are a ceaseless grind -
in the dark, new, cruel world you planned.'

'I'm working hard and endless days -
and I'm slaving pitiless nights, as well.
So may you rest uneasy, dishonest John,
and may you roast in the fires of hell.'

Then I awoke from this daunting dream,
with the news on 'Nine' whittering on,
to find a gruesome sight before my eyes,
and the terrible truth, John hadn't gone.


Many thanks to Dermott Ryder for permission to add this song to the Union Songs collection.

Dermott writes:
"Tim Bobbin' Grave is one of the best-loved dialect poems of Northern England. It is an engaging, whimsical work. John Howard's Grave, however, in Gradely English, records the darker side of the human condition. It is in its way a vision of Christmas yet to come, without the guiding hand of Jacob Marley or the reconstruction of Ebenezer Scrooge. To my surprise I have discovered that it works well as a skipping or hopscotch chant. Thus supporting the view that the last resting place of fallen gods is in the songs, rhymes and games of children."

From: For The Record by Dermott Ryder (c) 2006
[After Tim Bobbin' Grave - Sam Bamford 1788-1872]

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union songs..........a selection by mark gregory