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15 October 2014
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by BBC Radio Foyle

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Contributed by 
BBC Radio Foyle
People in story: 
Unknown. Poem written by crew member on British Lady identity unknown
Location of story: 
Moville, Co. Donegal, Ireland
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
08 September 2005

(The British Lady tanker was docked at Moville - the ships coming out of Derry to cross the Atlantic,escort ships and merchant ships alike filled up in Moville even though it was over the border in Irish Neutral territory.)

British Lady at Moville

in the month of April forty-three
Fresh and just come back from sea,
There came a tanker trim and clean
With crew so fit and bronze and lean.
Twas the British Lady fine and neat
The pride of the British tanker fleet.

There stood one man upon the bridge
And eyed the town upon the ridge.
He forgot the subs and planes and mines
And thought instead of 'logs' and fines -
This was the skipper spick and span
And every inch he was a man.

The second Sparks, complete with coat,
Stood ready waiting the Moville boat,
And then he saw and tore his hair
For Sheila was not waiting there.
Dear Sheila, so small and nice and neat
The pride of any town's main street.

The boys up forard, ready too,
First glimpsed the town and murmured 'Coo!'
They saw our Susie's pub in sight
And dreamt of drinking beer that night.
Old Joe with launch so clean and trim
Thought of the dollars awaiting him.

The Second Mate - rotund and red -
Said, "I think I'll go and rest my head".
He thought of hours of drink and fun
When everybody else's work he had done,
And the Third was standing ready dressed
Thinking of Mina - and all the rest.

At last the Mate said, with a roar,
"All hands can have one night ashore."
Washing clean the grime and oil
The middies thought no more of toil.
They put on their uniforms so bright -
They meant to get a girl that night.

John, the 'prentice filled his pipe -
He'd dressed in cap and shirt bleached white.
His thoughts were surely far away
To old Moville upon the bay;
He'd soon feel like a commodore
When kissing Evelyn at the door.

Then all our boys gave out a cheer
They saw the 'Fiver' just appear
And said aloud among themselves
Our Susie had better stack her shelves
He'd forgot about his valves and gauges
His mind with liquor-fever rages.

The Chief was standing by the ladder;
He saw old Bobby getting madder.
He calmed him with a "Good Cheer,
Your little wife will soon be here!"
The Second sure his wrath was dire -
He did not need to stoke his fire.

Then came the Fourth with baleful glare
And asked old Joe about the fare,
Who answered "With so large a paunch
I'm sure afraid you'll sink the launch."
But with no sense of grand retreat
He just climbed down and took his seat.

At last the engine with a clatter
Was heard above the apprentices' chatter.
The Second looked so full of rancour
At firemen heading for the Anchor;
But he'll soon be walking down the street
And standing all the men a treat.

At last the boat did reach the landing
Where customs men were ready standing.
The town had quietened to a hush
For Fiver had just led the rush,
While one apprentice left the crew
And slyly slipped to River View.

Alas! our laddie missed his mark -
His sweetie was away at work.
To keep his restless mind from thinking
He joined his pals and took to drinking.
At last he rose up with a cuss -
"I think I'll go and meet the bus."

He met her then and took her home,
Saying that along the beach they'd roam.
They sat upon a bench that night
And nowhere was a soul in sight.
He whispered love words in her ear -
Asked she "Have you been drinking, Dear?"

That Love affair alas was ended
Poor Johnny went away offended.
"There's plenty more fish in the sea;
I'll try my luck again," said he.
But to port a pub he saw anon
Which healed the heart of our poor John.

The youngest Third at love was trying -
It looked as if a cow was dying.
He walked about the draughty park
And looked romantic in the dark.
He now is finished with romance -
Poor chappy never had a chance.

Chippy, under stress and strife,
Told us the story of his life.
Three times at least he made some slips -
We almost dreamt another Chips.
But every time his tales he spun
A round of cheers from us he won.

The beers are downed, the spirits too,
The sober men are very few.
And just as jerky as electric static
There went the Fiver paralytic.
"Who wants water?" - a cry above the din
"Water’s for sailing tankers in!’

The time goes on, it's 10 o'clock,
The back doors open to the knock.
The lads all drink to drown their sorrows
"Who care of Seconds and the morrows?
And if tonight we'll hold no more,
Tomorrow we'll just stay ashore!"

The sea front rang aloud with song.
The drunken Fiver rolled along.
He was walking there to clear his head
Before retiring to his bed.
Field days are now days of yore -
"Tomorrow I'll just stop ashore."

In Mrs Wilson's up the street
Jimmy danced on stocking feet.
He tried to make a date with Anna
But she, of course, was far too canny.
She left him for her maiden's bed -
He went to sleep with dreams instead.

Up the road with rolling lumber
Hunting for the right door number
Comes the Fourth so full and tight
He drank to make his burden light.
He sang us of Prince Charles's woes
And all about how Afton flows.

The Pumpman, Bosun and the Donkeyman
The Stewards, Sailors and the Greaser clan
All were ashore and all were tight -
It truly was a terrific night.
Their breaths of whiskey, beer and rum
Did fairly make the night air hum.

In all the digs it was the same.
We one and all kept up the name
Of British Lady, so well known
Wherever the Union Jack is flown.
There was no misbehaving lad - Noone so tight as to be too bad.

The cry among us all was "Worth it!
More days ashore I think I'll work it."
We'd visited many a place with oil
But give us Moville on the Foyle.
The people there are still our friends -
I'd like to stay till this war ends.
Remember those we met so recently
The folks who treated us so decently:
There's Susie, Sheila, Mary and Mina,
Mrs Wilson, the Anchor and young Anna
With Evelyn and Mrs Mc Kinney too -
Those names of friends are just a few.

We thank you, Moville, one and all,
We hope to pay you another call;
And pray that you return our thoughts
That all your troubles come to noughts;
May all your joys be never-ending,
Seeing the British Lady spending. *

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