Saturday, November 8, 2014

Little Jimmy Grealy

Mr Byrne prowled between the desks, and
little Jimmy Grealy's hand was shaking, shaking,
as the whip, whip of the bamboo cane,
came closer, closer.

Drowned in pipe tobacco smells,
stink of stale, male urine tells,
I know the answer, I know the answer - always did,
but good boys sit with minds clamped shut,

trained to answer, trained to follow,
always avoid the painful mark.
After school we went to jump the stiles*,
but Little Jimmy took the lesser dare,

skipping to an orchard rob, he went 
to St. Joseph's School, where the blind
boys look out the empty windows
and wonder at what freedom is.

Little Jimmy Grealy jumped the wall to run,
- stewardeen* in pursuit -
straight on to the road he went;
smashed up there by a passing truck, 
the apples completely wasted.

They draped him white from chin to toe,
clean bed sheet ironed to cover,
and we bright boys were brought
to pay respects and a lesson to discover.

We saw his mother bend over him
lift him like a doll,
we saw his hand, a fallen snow drop,
hang stiff and white and still.

But in my thoughts he still shakes,
in a school desk scarred and scored by names,
and though its sixty years gone bye, 
I still hang my head in shame.
                                                                   ©niall oconnor 2014
* In Dublin kids were honour bound not to pay at the entrance to a football match. They either 'jumped the stiles,' or slipped underneath.
* Stewardeen: Derogatory and diminuitive term for Steward (the Landlord's representative, and guardian of his lands).


  1. Sheila Rose HazelwoodNovember 8, 2014 at 11:46 AM

    I've a lump in my throat.... hope you read us that one next time you come to Billy's

  2. This is brilliant niall man

  3. Wow, fantastic poem, Niall.

  4. Niall that is a heart rendering piece.


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