"Widow Morgan" by Inspector Aitken.

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"Widow Morgan" by Inspector Aitken.

Post by Currie » Tue Oct 05, 2010 12:01 am

Here’s a long forgotten poem from “Lays of the Line” written by Inspector Aitken of St. Enoch Station, Glasgow. In early 1882 The Dundee Courier published one of his poems each week and many had a railway theme. On 27 January, 1882, it was the turn of “Widow Morgan”.

St Enoch Station, Glasgow,
Author of “Rhymes and Readings.”


And she's gone, poor Widow Morgan, to the Poorhouse after all,
Gone to die a helpless pauper, propped against its cold damp wall,
Better far, had God so willed it, death had made his destined call.

All those years of toil and labour, ceaseless labour spent in vain,
Weary days of constant working, eerie nights of constant pain;
Life, was’t really worth the living, was there anything to gain?

Eighteen years ago John Morgan, coming homeward from the mine,
In the dark was struck and mangled, as he made to cross the line,
By an empty pilot engine coming off the steep incline.

Friends he had, but what about them, none of all his kith and kin
Ever lent a hand to help her, more than it had been a sin;
Like a slave she toiled and struggled, wore out life to keep it in.

Sickness came and sorrow with it, now at toil and now in bed,
Still she trusted, still she triumphed, to her credit be it said,
All those eighteen years she nobly kept a house above her head.

Came the fever, and the children one by one were taken ill;
One by one they drooped and faded, busy went her needle still;
One by one she laid them decent in the churchyard up the hill.

All but he, her last and youngest, blue-eyed, laughing little Jim,
Like a very hare he scampered, light of foot and lithe of limb,
All the life that left the others seemed to concentrate in him.

Time went on, and old age hoary dimmed her eye and dulled her ear,
But with Jim to watch and tend her nought of trouble need she fear;
She grew weak us he grew stronger, till he reached his twentieth year.

Slowly, quietly, wearing downwards, moving thro' life's final stage,
She had been his all in childhood, he would be her all in age,
To her faithfully he carried, week on week, his hard-won wage.

First, a lad with book and parcels, through the town his toil he plied,
Then a porter on the platform, yardsman, pointsman all allied,
Last, he wrought the Junction cabin, near to where his father died.

There he sat and did his duty, caged aloft and bird alone,
Sending up and getting signals from Tom Cruikshanks further on;
He and Tom were very brothers, long they had each other known,

Till they both got into trouble, how Jim never could explain,
Some mistake was made between them in the signalling of a train;
Both were fined a day, and cautioned never to offend again.

Fined! Jim did not take it kindly, fined for what, he could not tell,
Some confounded screw or other had got loose about the bell.
Fined! for such a paltry trifle, they who'd wrought so long and well.

Fined, he thought, while many a shadow flitted o'er his mind and brow;
Never since he started labour as a parcel lad till now
Had she missed a single shilling, he must make it up somehow.

And he did, when she had thought him slumbering peacefully in bed,
He had slipped away unnoticed to a night of toil instead,
To a night of busy labour in the noisy transfer shed.

Backward promptly in the morning to his signal work again,
Wearied out, and dull and heavy with the long continued strain,
Now and then a drowsy numbness creeping o'er his eye and brain.

Up against the dreamy monster all the day he bravely bore,
Never in his whole experience had he felt so press'd before,
Till he could no longer battle, down he sat and toppled o'er.

Scarce a minute had he slumbered, when the shrieking whistle blew,
Up he sprung in dreamy blindness, pulled a lever ere he knew;
Heavens! the hapless lad had shifted number three instead of two.

Then the piercing wail of anguish rose upon the calm, still air,
From a hundred helpless victims, maimed and bruised, and bleeding there—
Strong-toned voices breathing curses—weak ones moaning in despair.

Down the quiet old street they took him, as the shades of evening fell;
Through the prison gates they bore him, he whom they had known so well;
"Poor young lad!” the stoney warder muttered, as he locked the cell.

'Twixt poor Jim and Widow Morgan miles of sea now intervene,
Want comes peering in the window, no kind helper comes between;
All her hopes in life were shattered, when he smashed the four-fifteen.

And she's gone, poor Widow Morgan, to the Poorhouse, after all—
Gone to die a helpless pauper, propped against its cold, damp wall—
God of heaven, help the helpless, when life's night begins to fall.

Posted on behalf of the Ghost of Inspector Aitken who would join TS if he could manage a keyboard.


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Re: "Widow Morgan" by Inspector Aitken.

Post by joette » Tue Oct 05, 2010 8:30 am

I wonder if she & Jim were real people or figments of his imagination-long something I have suspected of a few of my long deid yins.
CARR/LEITCH-Scotland,Ireland(County Donegal)

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