No Coloureds No Irish No Dogs

Yes, I remember how could I forget?
seventeen years old, product of Norn Irn
Prod to the core but Anglican
paper wall between them and Rome
tramping round Finsbury Park
and up the Grays Inn Road

fresh memories of Harry Heather
banging his piano while
we sang lustily of the British Grenadiers
with a tow-row-tow-row-row-row-row
and my granda at The Somme and
Sam and Jack bleeding their fucking lives away

in the Churchill madness of Gallipoli
and Da in the airforce all through the Hitler war
and Noel in Korea and cousin Jack in Zanzibar
and all the bleeding my people did
for King and Empire and the better way
and Tom Mears doing his pastiche of Yeats

and the old priest Peter Gilligan
only it was the old force called the RUC
were weary night and day
for half their flock were at their posts
or under green sods lay

and I'd been a little Brit who waved

a Union Jack in school on Empire day
and it really pissed me off
those fag-lipped landladies who didn't want
my Irish arse inside their English dosses
'cos I was Darwinian-down.
But we built their canals railways motorways

and fought their wars and bred them generals
like Wellington Gough Montgomery
and eventually a Persian took me in and
looking back he'd always had the same
only they wanted his oil and not his bloody soul.
And Harry's coffin stuck in the frost

and they couldn't shift it and we remembered
singing British war songs and massa's in de cold, cold ground
and always before school on Radio Eireann
there was Whelehan's of Finglas and The Walton Programme
the songs our fathers loved and Donnelly's sausages for you
and I didn't know what I was Irish or Brit.

Then that day in London in nineteen sixty three
it burst into my head in the presence of
Cindy Tucker of Deerfield Mass
that I was just a Paddy. I ask you - just?


Searching for a place to stay in London in 1963 I was astonished (and not a little enraged) to find that most of the lodging-houses had neat white cards hanging in their windows which said: No Coloureds, No Irish, No Dogs. Hard-line Unionists, please note ....