Headstones to the Past

Vol. 5 No. 3 - 1987

Headstones to the past

by Eric McElroy

This poem is taken from an interesting little book of poems by Ken McElroy of Gilford, Co Down. Ken runs a small grocery shop which he has tried to preserve in its original state since founded by his father Cecil well over half a century ago. He writes of the many changes in the town of Gilford which he describes as a tightly-knit community. The characters of bygone days, the Mill and the Millworkers feature prominently in his poems.

Gilford Mill
Gilford Mill

The Mills have fallen silent down the valley,
Their looms no longer sound across the Bann,
Cold rain beats in between the slateless rafters,
Long grass grows where the rushing Mill race ran.

Strong Turbines lie, their bowels spilled and rusting,
Beside bare workshops long bereft of skills,
Sad offices, where prim girls tended ledgers,
Gape open to the winds and winter's chills.

Broad rooms, where once the spinners worked bare footed,
Lie derelict, their busy daughters gone,
Tall chimney stacks that list against the sky line,
Gaze down with pity on the empty ponds.

The broken paths that rang to countless footsteps,
Still lead to where a ruined Gate Lodge stands,
Its fine white gates lie twisted and discarded,
The proud Mill Clock hangs loose with static hands.

New houses stand erect upon the Bleach Greens,
Where once the webs would lie in acres white,
The Bleach Works lie deserted decomposing,
Their bones of oak laid bare to passers' sight.

The Jewels of the Linen Lords lie broken,
Headstones to the changing whims of man,
The hopes, the dreams, the citadels, of linen,
Lie tumbled in the fields beside the Bann.