James Simmons – Honest Ulsterman

James Simmons (1933-2001) established The Honest Ulsterman literary journal and took part in the Belfast Group of poets in the ’60s.

Hard to get hold of his work, I have located a copy of Ballad of a Marriage…more later. To hear James Simmons singing the ballad below – see the next post on the Belfast Group of poets.

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Ballad Of Claudy

The Sperrins surround it, the Faughan flows by

At each end of Main Street the hills and the sky

The small town of Claudy at ease in the sun

Last July in the morning, a new day begun.

 

How peaceful and pretty, if the moment could stop

McIlhenny is straightening things in his shop

His wife is outside serving petrol and then

A child takes a cloth to a big window-pane.

 

And McCloskey is taking the weight off his feet

McClelland and Miller are sweeping the street

Delivering milk at the Beaufort Hotel

Young Temple’s enjoying his first job quite well.

 

And Mrs. McLaughlin is scrubbing her floor

Artie Hone’s crossing the street to a door

Mrs. Brown, looking around for her cat

Goes off up an entry, what’s strange about that.

 

Not much, but before she comes back to the road

The strange car parked outside her house will explode

And all of the people I’ve mentioned outside

Will be waiting to die or already have died.

 

An explosion too loud for your eardrums to bear

Young children squealing like pigs in the square

All faces chalk-white or streaked with bright red

And the glass, and the dust, and the terrible dead.

 

For an old lady’s legs are blown off, and the head

Of a man’s hanging open, and still he’s not dead

He is shrieking for mercy while his son stands and stares

And stares, and then suddenly – quick – disappears.

 

And Christ, little Katherine Aiken is dead

Mrs. McLaughlin is pierced through the head

Meanwhile to Dungiven the killers have gone

And they’re finding it hard to get through on the phone.

 

The Sperrins surround it, the Faughan flows by

At each end of Main Street the hills and the sky

The small town of Claudy at ease in the sun

Last July in the morning, a new day begun.

 

 

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