Poem – The Ballad of the Last Lightermen

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Well we listened to your stories 
Of your days in Greenland Dock
Of barges full of rough goods
When you’ve been on the job-and-knock

Of pockets full of money
Earned for sitting on a barge
And how you are a race apart
From people by and large

Of hours you’ve spent in cafes and pubs
Of Woodbines, tea and toast
Of turned up jeans and hobnailed boots
Form guide and winning post

Of the barmaids you’ve pulled
If only in a dream
Of nights spent on the mucking
When tugs run out of steam

But like the arrowsmiths and wheelwright
Yours is a dying trade
And each day you grow more bitter
As your numbers slowly fade

For The Port of London’s dying
Though she’s been a grand old girl
And Father Thames no longer
Holds the shipping of the world
They’re filling in your docks
Knocking down your wharves and pubs
They’re selling all your barges
And scrapping all your tugs

In their luxury apartments
That command a river view
As they sip their dry Martinis
Do they ever think of you?

What do they know of Greenhithe
Blackwall Point and Wapping Stairs
As they talk of liquidation
And watch their stocks and shares

But still you’ll have the last laugh
As they’re hellbound for their sin
It’ll be so full of Lightermen
The buggers won’t get in.

Author: Unknown

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