Leonard McDermid

We feature work by poet Leonard McDermid to mark National Poetry Day 2010.

'And for that minute' cover

Leonard McDermid was born in Gravesend in 1933. His father and grandfather worked in the Greenock shipyards. He is an artist and has lived in the Borders for 40 years. He studied at Medway College of Art, Brighton College of Art, Newbattle Abbey College, and Edinburgh University.

In 1990 Leonard established the Stichill Marigold Press, and under this imprint he has written, hand-set, printed and published several unique letterpress pamphlets.

These two poems are taken from 'And for that minute', published by the Stichill Marigold Press.

Leonard says: '"And for that minute" is a homage to Edward Thomas and his much-loved poem 'Adlestrop'. The six poems in the pamphlet, interspersed with extracts from the Great Western Railway Rule Book, relate the recollections of six imaginary witnesses to that achingly nostalgic moment in June 1914 when Edward Thomas's train halted momentarily at the remote Cotswold station.'

'And for that minute' was joint winner of the 2010 Callum Macdonald Memorial Award.



Yes. I remember Meadowtop
That day, because that long forenoon
We'd raked the drying hay and stooked hard
Unceasingly. In heat of June.

The shade called. Flagons and cold tea.
Shadowed by willows we sat
In the quiet coolness. What we felt
Was weariness — simple as that.

And Arnold, thinking out loud,
Said: 'Unusual, if you ask me,
That train should have carried through
And not be stopping in that way.'

He'd been boy-porter some years
Before and knew about these things.
Just then, catching that minute, the train set off.
And, afterwards, the blackbirds' songs.




Yes. I remember that short stop -
Quite plain, because that afternoon
We should have run through, not called there
At Adlestrop. Running too soon.

Dampers shut. The valves bubbled steam.
Our guard stepped out and turned his arm
To say two minutes. What I saw
Was common-place — held at the Home

And ballast, sleeper-tops, and weeds,
And tender-coal and drying hay
All soaked in sun and smelling sweet
In the high glory of the day.

And at that moment the signal-wire
Ran slack, (check the guard, Right Away,
Whistle and start her)
, on the road
Through blackbird song that summer day.


National Poetry Day 2010


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