My father’s voice would falter
And his face would shutter, closed –
He simply could not utter
Any sound, lest he exposed
A well of grief still buried deep,
His parent’s story rarely told.
It was nineteen fifty-seven,
They had waited thirty years
To sail back home to Scotland,
Mem’ries might have tarnished some,
But family still remained.
Letters tucked in envelopes, and
Portrait postcards came
To tell of babes, and funerals.
Though voices rarely rang
Across the pond, along the wire,
Beloved still, their name.
It’s said my grandpa’s heart was large,
Though stern his visage seemed,
By those, his generosity
Had helped when times were mean.
And granny, kind and gentle was
In voice, and word and deed.
Alexander (Sandy) Murray
Youngest son, had sailed along,
Only fifteen at the time,
Six feet three, and strong.
He would not be left behind
So joined the happy throng.
My father, William stayed at home
In Canada, their eldest son.
And Auntie Moi, who’d gone down east
Was married now with infant one.
Expecting them at summer’s end,
Bill said in June, “so long”.
I wonder what she felt that day
She disembarked, and found
Those eager, searching faces
Of her sisters in the crowd.
I can’t imagine thirty years
Without my sisters ’round.
And what of him, mo seanair,
My grandpa, did he smile?
Or did he stand a little back
And let her sob awhile,
Into their necks, dear Bess and Jean,
Their love survived the miles.
Lovely Bess, from Reading came,
A wife, a mother, sister, daur.
Dear Jean lived in Dùn Éideann,
Midwife, matron to the poor.
How I wish that I had known them,
But the Highlands loved them more.
Their people on the northern shore
Had heard they would return
When heather bloomed upon the hills,
And salmon flashed in burns.
Many there awaited them,
Their crofts with joy adorned.
Before they took the journey north
The family went to town.
They took a trip to Oxford Street,
Joined the bustling London crowds.
It was a perfect sunny day in June
To troop the colour, fete the crown.
It was ten to three, and time to go,
And so they formed a queue,
With Grandpa standing at the front,
And closest to the curb,
Protecting wife and sisters,
As men were taught to do.
It’s said my granny pushed him hard,
Her son, my uncle fell
Into Aunt Bess, so small and meek,
Was pushed aside as well.
They both were saved, in half a breath,
But gran was struck, or under wheels.
The newsreels show them standing there,
Their blank eyes staring, blind,
A London bus had mowed them down.
Their little group of five,
Reduced to two – the others
Killed at once, or later died.
Of the seven lost that day,
Three belonged to us,
To my father and his sister,
To my uncle, Auntie Bess,
To Auntie Nannie, Auntie Belle,
To generations coming next.
Grandpa, Gran and Jean were buried
Where Auntie Bess is resting now.
I’m not sure it matters
Where the bones are, only how
They are remembered, who they loved.
And sure, they’re still beloved now.
Their sudden passing left a wound
Of aching breadth, ne’er healed.
There’s no point in asking why
Those lovely folk were killed, but
Some of my dear father’s heart
Was shattered then, and sealed.
The Murrays and the Grahams
Have scattered far and wide,
But there are many still who keep
Their legacy of home alive
Through songs and pipes and family.
We remember them with pride.