David Betteridge

We feature work by poet David Betteridge to mark National Poetry Day 2011.

Cover of book 'Counterwailing'
Cover design by Tom Malone.

David Betteridge is a retired teacher and teacher-trainer who has worked in various countries, including Scotland, Pakistan and Nepal.

David's poetry has been widely published in literary journals and anthologies. In 2008, Smokestack Books published a collection of his poems about Glasgow, 'Granny Albyn's complaint'.

Recently David edited 'A rose loupt oot', an anthology of poems, songs and cartoons commemorating the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders work-in of 1971-1972, also published by Smokestack.

As part of Rhizome Press, David has co-produced five poetry pamphlets with designer Tom Malone.

The two extracts below are taken from 'Countervailing', published by Rhizome Press.

'Countervailing' is an elegy to the crew of the scallop dredger 'Solway Harvester', which sank in high seas off the coast of the Isle of Man in January 2000. David knew two of the seven men who were drowned. 

The poem focuses on the fishing community and the families of the crew, who ensured that the bodies were recovered and given a proper burial. The poem charts the period from first hearing the news that the 'Solway Harvester' was missing, to the day of the funerals.



It was the month of a new millennium
and the moon's eclipse.
Jupiter rode high, trailed by Saturn.
The Solway Harvester put out, a night sailing.
Out from Kirkcudbright, her course was south,
south to the scallop beds of Man.
Two days should see the job done.
One of the crew had plans to marry.
Two were brothers, fathers both,
one of a child unborn.
Three were hardly out of school.
For one, it was his maiden voyage,
maiden and final.

Across the Solway (Sun's Way), hard
they battered, the boat safe,
well-skippered, and well-found.

It was the month of a new millennium,
and the moon's eclipse.
Gorse, in flower early, yellowed the headlands.
Wind chased rain.
The seven worked, and won,
and winched aboard their sea-bed crop.

It was the month, and soon the day and moment
of the sinking of the Harvester, a safe boat.
It was January; the evening of the eleventh day.
A storm was blowing.

The weather here is screaming;
we're coming home.

(The skipper's final message home.)

At six, it happened:
the sea engulfed the boat and crew,
and put a stop at once to seven futures
in their growing.



Coming Home

Catkins shook in the frequent wind.
Crocuses stood proud.

It was a day of funerals,
a month on from the sinking,
a hard, slow month of squalls and gales
and, in between, a low sun

It was a day when an era ended.
From Douglas, north, by air,
and then to their villages by hearse,
the seven made their journey back,
a world removed from their journey out,
when they drove the seaward furrow

It was a day of funerals.
Whithorn and the Isle of Whithorn
filled with folk.
Flowers, stacked high, garlanded the coffins.
Cards spelled out their senders' pain.
A many-numbered love attended there,
mourning, caring.
Goodbyes were said, and prayers, and praise,
in friendship's sharing.

It was a day when an era started,
when lives in hurt began their futures
in the leeway of the dead departed.

Catkins shook in the frequent wind.
Crocuses stood proud.
New growth freshened the pastures.


National Poetry Day 2011

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