Friday 17 July 2009

The William Thompson Poems story so far...

Thanks for looking us up. It's been quite an adventure! The once-famous poems of a county Down farmer (our grandfather) all compiled and republished for a new generation:

- years of research
- original "sixpence" pamphlets discovered
- over 100 poems gathered up from folk in the local community
- book published Christmas 2007
- book launched February 2008 at Donaghadee Lifeboat Station
- hundreds of copies sold to raise funds for the RNLI
- free copies given to every school on the Ards Peninsula
- copies in every local library
- poems featured on BBC television show "Blue Peter"
- the finding of the grave of Robert Thompson in Gloucester
- the tragic story of his drowning aged just 20
- another long-lost poem discovered
- photographs of the Cloughey lifeboat discovered

With 107 poems in a baeutifully-presented softback, make sure you get your copy. All profits will go to the life-saving work of the RNLI.


Monday 1 December 2008

No Christmas Tree!

Here's a poem which was published in the Chronicle in the early 1950s. It seem that the Ards Borough Council of that time had taken a decision to not have a Christmas tree in the square in Newtownards, and that there was a "campaign" in the Chronicle to have the Council change its decision. As usual, William was at the forefront of the issue - he was often a thorn in the flesh of the local politicians!

No Christmas Tree!

No Christmas tree in Conway Square!
The prospect is both bleak and bare:
They’re not erecting one this year,
A sight to gladden and to cheer.

No Christmas tree in Conway Square!
The councillors don’t seem to care,
No Christmas hymns and carols too,
Our Christmas joys are far too few.

No Christmas tree in Conway Square!
No Christmas spirit in the air,
I hope they listen to the plea:
“Erect once more a Christmas tree.”

No Christmas tree in Conway Square!
No season of goodwill shared there;
No spirit of festivity
Around a lighted Christmas tree.

No Christmas tree in Conway Square!
To one and all it’s most unfair;
For people come from far and near -
The Christmas spirit draws them here.

No Christmas tree in Conway Square!
The councillors’ views we do not share,
The “Chronicle” people make it plain,
They speak for Ards folk once again.

A Christmas tree in Conway Square,
The Christmas spirit in the air;
In Newtownards at Christmastide
The Ards Peninsula takes a pride.

A Christmas tree in Conway Square,
The people come from everywhere;
It brings prosperity to the town -
No councillor should turn this down.

A Christmas tree in Conway Square,
It tells of One who came to share
Our joys and sorrows while down here,
His name, Emmanuel, most dear.

Then plant a tree in Conway Square,
And decorate it bright and fair;
For memories of it will live on
When borough councillors are gone.

A Christmas tree in Conway Square!
In winter’s cold and chilly air,
Would breathe a hope for coming days;
Its message cheers us on our ways.

A Christmas tree in Conway Square,
The Christmas spirit in the air;
A season of festivity -
Why not erect a Christmas tree?

Tuesday 29 July 2008

The Donaghadee Lifeboat at the 12th

I took this photo on the 12th July at Portavogie, of LOL 836 Bro Henry Ferguson Memorial Orange Lodge from Donaghadee. As you can see their banner has a painting of the local lifeboat, with the message "Oh hear us when we cry to Thee, for those in peril on the sea"

Wednesday 9 July 2008

New Poem Discovered!

My uncle John called round tonight with a photocopy of another one of Granda's poems, about the Princess Victoria disaster again, which was given to him by Roberta McKee of Ballyeasborough.

It had been printed in the Chronicle (obviously sometime between the sinking in 1953 and William's death in 1957). It's untitled, but here it is:


This motor vessel left Stranraer
To cross the short sea route to Larne
But very soon the mountainous seas
Had caused this noble ship much harm

She soon heeled over on her side
The SOS message told its tale
And ships went racing to her aid
Alas it was of no avail

And Coxswain Young from Cloughey shore
With brave Hugh Nelson from the 'Dee
A lifeboat from Portpatrick, too
Were out there on that angry sea

The call came to abandon ship
A few miles from the Irish coast
In spite of all the rescue work
A few were saved and many lost

Sir Walter Smiles was on the boat
And Major Maynard Sinclair too
Thus two of Ulster's noblest sons
Have passed on from our mortal view

The search went on and aeroplanes
Assisted by destroyers too
They searched the sea for miles around
Snow blizzards hiding all from view

And many victims of the sea
Were brought to shore from day to day
And Ulster mourns their tragic fate
And would its silent homage pay

We humbly commend to God
The many homes of grief and pain
When death divides, may He reunite
Where there is no more sea, again!

Wednesday 25 June 2008

Private James Thompson, R.I.R of Kirkistown, killed at the Somme, aged 20

With the Battle of the Somme commemorations next week, I thought this would be a relevant poem to post here. As far as I know he was my grandfather's cousin.

In Loving Memory of our Dear Son
Private James Thompson, R.I.R of Kirkistown

Who was killed in action at the Battle of the Somme at Thiepval
on 1st July 1916, aged 20 years
“What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter” -
John 13 v 7

A loved one has been called away
He’s in our midst no more
In a land afar his body lies
Far from his native shore

He bade us all a last farewell
A happy brave “Good-bye”
And with the gallant few went forth
To suffer and to die

Upon the first day of July
Amidst the shot and shell
‘Twas in the battle of the Somme
He in the conflict fell

What anguish fills each fainting heart
And many cheeks grow pale
And in that sorrow-stricken home
How many mourn and wail

None in that home shall e’er forget
The one so bright and fair
Who young in years were called away
Now sits a vacant chair

No one was near when in that hour
He breathed his latest breath
But Jesus led him gently on
Thro’ the dark vale of death

He answered not the roll call here
But in that world so fair
When Jesus calls the roll above
He’ll not be missing there

We know ‘twas in that solemn hour
His spirit took its flight
To dwell with God above the skies
In realms of love and light

Oh, sorrow not, but cast your care
On Christ, the Unfailing One,
Who ever doeth all things well
And say “Thy will be done”

Let this a warning be to all
To cease their sinful strife
Thy soul may be required of thee
Escape thou for the life

Oh, be prepared to meet thy God
This warning he doth give
Consider now your latter end
Believe and thou shall live

And then, where parting is unknown,
All sorrow shall be o’er
For strife and conflict never come
On yonder happy shore.

Note: according to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the memorial of rifleman James Thompson of the Royal Irish Rifles (A Company, 13th Battalion) is at Thiepval, Pier and Face 15A and 15B. His parents are recorded as William and Margaret Thompson, Kirkistown, Kirkcubbin.

Thursday 17 April 2008

Some of David Martin's Photographs

With thanks to the Newtownards Chronicle and the Newtownards Spectator for the publicity this week.

Press Release:

Cloughey Lifeboat photographs discovered!

The recent publication of the book “William Thompson - Low Country Poems” has unearthed yet more Ards Peninsula lifeboat history! David Martin of Calhame Road in Cloughey was amazed to see picture of himself on page 58 of the book – he was the driver of the tractor which towed the lifeboat down to the water when she was being launched. So David got in touch with John Thompson (the poet’s son), and they met up – David brought with him an amazing collection of rare photographs of the Cloughey lifeboats and their many crews.

David worked with the Cloughey lifeboat for 20 years, up until the service was closed down in 1966. Ever since then he has assembled a wonderful photographic archive, and he knew many of the people who feature in the photographs in the book.

A free copy of the book has been donated to the library of every school in the Ards Peninsula. The Thompson family would be delighted to hear from anyone who has information about the poems and the Cloughey lifeboat.

Some of David’s photographs can now be seen on the project’s website


John Thompson and David Martin looking at some of the photographs, in John's kitchen in Portavogie, Saturday 5th April 2008:

Clipping from the Belfast News Letter, Thursday June 19, 1952. The Constance Calverley arrives at Cloughey:

The official launch of the Constance Calverley, August 1952:

The official launch of the Constance Calverley, August 1952:

The Constance Calverley on her way to the stricken Princess Victoria, January 1953:

The Constance Calverley at Belfast City Hall, May 1955, as part of a fundraiser for "Lifeboat Week":

David Martin drives the tractor, circa 1960:

After meeting David and taking the photos, Jacob (my son) and I went down to the memorial to the Cloughey Lifeboat, at Cloughey car park on the sand dunes:

Close-up of Jacob by the memorial:

These are just a few of the many photographs in David's collection; thanks to him for getting in touch with us and sharing them. David owns the copyright on all of his photographs and they must not be reproduced without his permission.

Monday 17 March 2008

Three of the original booklets

Here are the scanned covers of three of William's poetry booklets, which he sold door-to-door around the Ards Peninsula to raise money for the Cloughey lifeboat. These were kindly donated by Bertie Kelly of Portavogie who had kept them since he was a boy.