The engineering factory was a place of hard work by tough men from Belfast. Two labourers were Johnny and Wee John, both having served in the Great War (1914-18) whilst teenagers. Wee John had a mangled hand with no fingers having been wounded at the Battle of the Somme. He was employed all day every day to sweep the factory floor. The factory now lies deserted.
A door opens to the distant past
As I pace the factory floor;
Churn of crane above noise and blast,
The din, the rumble and roar.
Burners cascading sparks all around,
Crash of a well swung sledge;
Smoke from welders down on the ground,
Grinders chasing a chamfered edge.
Old Bob brazing the galvo steel,
Vapour mixed with every breath;
This whitened cloud his fate did seal
To bring about his death.
No thoughts on that away back then,
Or asbestos, gases or fume;
A milling mass of toiling men
Who didn’t identify doom!
I can see Wee John the ‘Sweeper Up’
He was barely five foot one;
His stump of a hand holding a cup,
Result of the Somme by the Hun.
These flitting spectres haunt my eye,
O’er the deserted factory floor;
Till men and machines fade and die
As I close memory’s door.
Monty Alexander 4.7.04