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16 October 2014
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A sense of Belfast - Poem

I'll speak to you, dear stranger, if you really want to know, So listen , and I'll tell you why I love this city so.

Greater Belfast

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I hope that you will like this poem and that it will stir up old memories.


I'll speak to you, dear stranger, if you really want to know,
So listen , and I'll tell you why I love this city so.

Belfast is an Ulsterman with features dour and grim,
It's a pint of creamy porter and a Sunday morning hymn;
The dingy little café where they serve you dainty teas.
It's up the road to the anchor, for lots of vinegar on hot peas.

It's a banner on July the twelfth, a sticky toffee apple,
A righteous little gospel hall, a roman catholic chapel;
It was a paper boy shoutin telly, a piece of apple tart
A fry upon a Saturday, or a coal breek on a cart.

Do you mind a Corporation gas man, complete with bowler hat,
A wee shop at the corner, a friendly bit of chat;
An oul lad in a duncher, the woman in a shawl,
A pinch of snuff, a tattie farl, a loyal orange hall.
The tobacco smell in York street, a beg of yella man,
An Easter egg that's dyed with whins, a slice of ormo pan
The wee lad with spricks in an oul glass jar,
The preacher at the customs house, or an old Victorian bar.

Mud banks on the lagan when the tide is running low,
The men collecting refuse , bonfires in sandy row;
A bag of salty dullis, a boul of Irish stew,
A goldfish bought in Gresham Street, a preacher at the queue.
It's a portrait of King Billy upon a gable wall,
A flower seller on a stool, outside the city hall;
A half moon round the door step, a polis man on guard,
A man whose crying "delf for regs", a little whitewashed yard.

It's the Mays market on a Friday, the ships lined at the docks,
It's a shiny polished fender, a bunch of green shamrocks;
It's herrings fried in oaten meal, with a drink of buttermilk;
It's a snowy linen handkerchief as soft as finest silk,
O'Hara's bap with country butter, a dander round the zoo,
A climb up tough Ben Madigan to get a splendid view.

It's a bunch of savoury scallions, a plate of buttery champ,
Hopscotch on the footpath, a swing around a lamp,
Delf dogs on the mantelpiece, the wee man from the pru,
The chimney sweep on his bicycle, coming to do the flue;
The ever present vista of the hills of Castlereagh,
The deathless hush on Saturday when linfield play away,
Killarney's lakes and fells, on the bells of the assembly hall,
Spikey broken bottles stuck on the backyard wall.

It's bacon boiled with pamphrey, served when piping hot,
With skerry spuds, balls of flour, cracked laughing in the pot.
It's the smell of mansion polish on the lino in the hall,
Sunday school excursion, a treat for one and all;
It's the islandmen who build great ships that take us far to sea,
S.D. bells in Ann Street where they sell the finest tea;
It's fish and chips in paper, on a Friday from Johnny longs;
The sally army band on Sunday to save the sinning throng.

It's a wee walk up the Lisburn Road and back by the Malone,
The Albert clock in High Street with its rich and mellow tone.
It's a barney Hughes hot cross bun, a canary in a cage,
The old men talking in the park of a past and better age;
It's the sharp expressive dialect of everyone at large,
A ton of coal on the lagan a floating in a barge.
It's wemen on the windystool when the summer sun shines down,
A "v" of apple tattie or a wee race into town.

It's a needle to an anchor in Smithfield's famous mart,
I think I'd better call a halt before I break my heart.
And that's the answer stranger and now I'm sure you'll see,
Why Belfast is the only place in all the world for me.

Based on an original idea
By Bill Nesbitt

Your Responses

Tom Cully - Sep 08
The poem is absolutely fantastic! Trouble is, I remember each and everything you mentioned!! Must be getting old!! Thank You.

Valerie Henry (nee Murtagh) - Aug '08
Really enjoyed the poem, brings back lots of memories, I've been away now 42 years in Canada originally from Sandy Row.
Thanks for sharing.

Barbara Taylor - July '08
Sitting here and the tears a tripping me. Thinking of the past, and a childhood spent in Cavour Street on the Old Lodge Road. My 2 aunts in the same street, my granda across the road. Getting taken up the street to my aunties in my daddy's arms wrapped in a blanket so he could get to work and my clothes spread out over the clothes horse to warm. Not forgetting the liberty bodice! Dancing lessons in the wee hall.
Sunday school and a bus run out for the day from Townsend Street Church. Attending Perth Street School.
My mummy working in Browns at Brown Square and the thrill of Easter and Christmas shopping at the sweet shop in Agnas Street when the savings club paid out. I can still remember the smell of the chocolate when you entered the shop.
In reality we were probably quite poor but everybody was so there was no shame.
We may have more money now but I think it those days I was richer than I will ever be again.

Anne Maxwell - July '08
Thank you so much for sharing the poem. I grew up in Belfast, in the Donegall Pass area, I left 45years ago and came to live in the U.S.A. I have been back many times and like everywhere it has changed a lot over the years but I have my memories of the lamp lighter fixing the gas lamps , and the time they dug up the cobble stones on Elm Street and made a nice smoothe road where we could roller skate and play rounders . Thanks for the memories........ Anne Maxwell ( member of Exiles Files )

Andrew Carragon - June '08
If anyone has any information on the wereabouts of Bill Nesbitt I would like to know. Thanks

Telecaster1000 - February '08

Brilliant! So evocative of warm memories.

Moreen Zachariasen  - January '07
This was totally priceless! I just happened upon this and was brought back many years to such wonderful memories! I used to live on the Cregagh Road,Belfast, but now live in Avon, Connecticut, USA. My brother,Trevor, lives in New York City. My former name was Moreen Dick. I still have relatives and dear friends residing in Northern Ireland and go there every other year or as often as possible! It will ALWAYS be my "home". If anyone remembers me, or even if they do not, I would love to hear from you! "Norn Iron" is what it's all about!

Stan Sloan - Nov '06
I really loved Bill Nesbitts poems when they used to put them in ''THE ULSTER'' in the 50s. I still have a few here in Calif. But lost some over the years.

J Wilson - Octy '06
I spent the first eighteen years of my life on the Shankill Road before we left for England, I can recognise every place in this poem even after forty years with out ever being back. I have just read this by accident and have had a silent cry for a lost way of life I even once had my picture taken by the telegraph buying flowers for mothers day needless to say i was just passing and had mitched of school and they told me i could keep the flowers, never been the brightest.

Lillian Crooks - Oct '06
What a great poem it brought back lots of memories as I have now lived in Melbourne Australia and have always have thoughts of home. I have been here for 36 years and still miss home.
I always look on the net for Belfast news and old photos etc. I used to go a lot to Bangor as a youngster with my granny and granda.

Cara Baily - Sep '06
This poem brings back old memories.

Jim Walsh - Sep '06
Wonderful poem. So many memories not just from what was said, but how it was said using terms and phrases I haven't heard or used in a very long time. For some reason I feel like taking my grandson out this weekend to catch "spricks" and tell him stories.

Andrew A. Orr - May '06
Hello Roy Johnston is my buddy and a good friend, we run the Exiles Files together. It's a great Northern Irish Yahoo Group. If you want to check out our homepage for more Poetry on N. Ireland you can go to Feel free to join up from there too.

I really love Billy's Poem, Brings a tear to ones eye. I'm going to seek out his poetry and place it on our site too. Thanks for the cleansing of the soul.

Roy Johnston - March '06
Good for more than one hankie. Any Ulster expats reading this, I run an exiles site with members all over the world. That's Take a wee gander and join up if it takes your fancy. You can take the boy out of Belfast......

Dave Sloan - March '06

I really liked this little poem, it gave me heart the chills,
Made me think about the times I went roamin' round the hills.
Trekking up the Cavehill to roll me Easter egg,
Or spend the day at Banger with me lunch packed in a beg.

Sunday School trips down to Millisle, Lord those were the days.
Lunches packed up in a beg and all the games we played.
Or down to Gannaway with the BB, we'd stay there for a week,
At the end of day we'd be so tired we could hardly speak.

It made me think of Portrush The rides and of course the beach,
Now it seems so far away, almost out of reach.
But I'm going back in April, I'll see them all again,
Tho' I know that it won't be the same as when I was a wean.

But that's OK, I'm still excited just to see the good ould sod,
To know that here on earth it's the closest thing to God.
I'll stroll the streets of Belfast and to Carrickfergus take a trip,
And then I'll stop along the way for some good old fish n chips.

Dave Sloan 3-13-06

Really did enjoy the poem, brought back many good old memories. Thanks for sharing.

Evelyn Johnston - Jan '06
Many memories long forgotten brought back sharp as ever ! - for which I am thankful, especially the "half moon round the doorstep" as that was my particular chore on a weekend. Evelyn Johnston (nee Morrison) originally from Sandy Row !

Joan Skillen - Jan '06
Great poem, tears tripping me. Jaysus we're bloody saps, can't live in the place, but can't live without it. Thanks for the memories

Andrew Carragon
Can anyone point me in the right direction of Bill Nesbitt? after tracing my very short family tree, I believe him to be related. I am Andrew, Samuel Earleys' Grandson, Samuel's sister is Eleanor Nesbitt (nee Earley) and i think Willima (Bill) Nesbitt is her son. If anyone can help I am on or
thanks for any help

Colin Charles Dickson - Sept '05
stickinout, been away 33years and this great poem nearly broke my heart

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