The Spirit of Grangetown

My footsteps returned to the Grange today,
The landmarks I sought had vanished away.
Regretfully I reminisced,
For the Grangetown I knew was not like this.

Then all of a sudden the scene changed,
‘Twas as if the days of old remained,
People I’d known, to my surprise,
Re-enacted their lives before my eyes.

The shops around me began to unfold
And carried on business just as of old.
Arkle the Post Office opened his door
To sell his halfpenny stamps once more.
For a shilling a week, marked on a card,
Pryce Griffiths sold his shoes, for the times were hard,
Paisley, the draper, down on the square,
Poppy Whiteing also was there.
Bann, the butcher, doing well,
And Stones, the grocer, so they tell.

Dolly Cazananve made her start
Delivering milk with her small handcart.
Jimmy Nurse, the insurance, cycling around.
Harry Parsons, too, I found.

By the Lord Windsor, always at hand,
Billy, the bookie, furtively stands.
Now the Salvation Army comes,
With big Mr. Norton playing the drums.
For its Monday night and off we go
To see the magic lantern show,
With slides designed to make us think
About the folly of demon drink.

They were dancing the New Year in on the square,
All of the streets were gathering there.
And as they sang the Auld Lang Syne,
Somebody linked their arm in mine.
With tears of joy I found at last
The spirit I sought of Grangetown past.

With youth renewed I wandered at will
Over the tide fields and the red hill,
Past the Red House to the old subway,
Searched for the penny toll to pay.

A child again, I stood on the deck
of the old Louisa’s creaking wreck,
The children were playing on the stones
And the men were rowing their little boats home.

Slowly back to the Marl I made my way,
Pausing to watch the Albions play,
For baseball was ever
The match of our day.

As I walked along the Old Docks Road,
A cart on the tip emptied its load,
I joined in the search with the waiting boys,
eager to dig in the dirt for the coins.

The sea had reclaimed its land once more,
It arose to the Boat House dirt pavement shore.
Old Bill the Boatman hurried by,
Tipping his cap as he caught my eye.

Finally, to the canal we came,
And dived off the James Street Bridge again,
With jolly rivalry we boast,
Jumping the logs at the Timber Float.

Finding myself alone once more,
I made my way past the John Bull Store,
Before I travelled very far,
I came to Longstaff’s Penny Bazaar.

There at the top of Paget Street
Once again I stopped to greet
The folk that kept a fresh fish stall,
known to us all as The Hole in the Wall.

We queued for the twopenny rush up the Nin,
Alfalfa, Ken Maynard, Rin Tin Tin,
We cheered or booed as the battle raged,
And whistled and called when the cameras failed.
When the pictures were over, out we came,
I was Tonto, you were Tom Mix, all over again.

For my childhood home I began to yearn,
A consuming need within me burned.
Instinctively my footsteps turned,
With nostalgic heart I hurried along,
But the house I knew as home was gone,
And where the terraced street had been,
All that remained was a plot of green.

I looked at my hands,
They were wrinkled and old,
Suddenly, I felt quite cold,
For the Spirit of Grangetown that used to be,
Only exists in my memory.

: ‘Millie’, Grangetown, Cardiff.

Published in The Grange Dragon No 5, Winter 1997