Monday, April 18, 2016

I lifted this from Chris H's blog, as I threatened to do. The search to identify the author goes on. My old grandad, Edward McGinn, was one of these men, usually getting passed over because he refused to buy a day's work with a "backhander". Many of the stevedores who hired the dockers had a pub or a shebeen where men had to go for a start, and were expected to cough up for a pint while they waited. At the end of the working day it was back to the boozer to collect the day's earnings, and, of course, sup a couple of pints to "slake the dust".
This poem is reckoned to be from c.1910.

(George Milligan)

Before the great world’s noises break
the stillness overhead,
For toiling life begins the strife –
The day’s grim fight for bread.
Where Mersey’s mighty greyhounds speak
The wealth or England’s stocks,
Stand, mute and meek, the men that seek
A Day’s Work at the Docks.

Behold them now – a motley throng,
Men drawn from every grade:
Pale, florid, puny – weak and strong,
All by one impulse swayed.
One impulse – bread; one impulse – work!
How hope at each heart knocks
As mute and meek, they crush to seek
A day’s work at the docks.

‘Stand back! Stand back!’ A hoarse voice storms,
With curses muttered lower,
The straining ring of human forms
But closes in the more.
Well fed, you foremen scarce can know
How want the judgement mocks,
When, mute and meek, men eager seek
A day’s work at the docks.


Chris Hall said...

All I can find on George Milligan. Perhaps also known as John Milligan.

Interesting to see the link to your grandad.

Chris Hall said...


Least I think so.

Jemmy Hope said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jemmy Hope said...

Yes, that's got to be our man.

Chris Hall said...

Left me a bit deflated to find out he'd accepted an OBE though :(

Too often the revolutionary fire in the belly is dampened by being welcomed into the belly of the establishment

Jemmy Hope said...

Same here, quick turnaround from that gent.