From ‘It was a dark and stormy night’ to Sir Francis Drake

Prompted by Esther Newton’s Writing Challenge where the subject is Fear my mind slips back two decades and then a lot longer.

Sometime ago, when the Lawyer was about six and had latched onto the word ‘loathsome’ (that is a red herring), he was caught on camera by my brother in law reciting a poem my father had taught him. The Lawyer called it ‘The Fear’. I don’t remember dad calling it ‘The Fear’ but I do remember the poem from my youth, one of several dad would recite to us.

It was a dark and stormy night

And the roads were dry and clean

And I was walking backwards

To the place where I had been

When suddenly I saw a noise

Stood on my face and looked

There it was!

It came again

I did the splits

Had 15 fits

And left myself with me.

Did dad write it? If not where did he find it? I had a gander at the internet and it threw no light on it.  The Archaeologist may know but for now it’s origins remain a mystery.

So that had me thinking about other poems Dad recited to us. One started ‘Sir Francis Drake was a warrior bold, the scourge of the Spanish Main’. Once again I return to the Net to see if I could find it.

And poof, there it was, on this website, The Usmeum of Ordiments – the whole poem as I remembered Dad reciting it. In seconds I closed my eyes and was transported back to a field gate somewhere in the Surrey or Kent countryside. While the rain teemed down, Mum and Dad stood by the back of the car – an early version of a hatchback, the Hillman Huskey – with a tarpaulin over their heads, and made tea on a primus stove, while the Archaeologist and I knelt on the back seat and faced them as we waited for the promised picnic. To keep us amused – in the days before car radios –  dad recited this poem. I loved it for its irreverent language, the reference to ‘pards’ as some sort of fighting force and the rhyming of lucky and ducky – a Queen saying ‘ducky’ seemed to this young child the height of subversion.

It turns out the poem was written by the blogger’s uncle sometime in the late 30s or early 40s which makes sense as dad knew it from his school days when he learnt it by heart (he finished school in 1944). The author, Murray Lane died in 1942 at  a terribly young age; did he and dad know each other, or maybe it was through school or some other contact.

Who knows but at least in his family and in me and my brother the memory of that poem lives on. Here it is, as a tribute both to Murray Lane and my dad

Sir Francis Drake

Sir Francis Drake was a warrior bold –
The scourge of the Spanish Main;
He singed King Phillip’s curly beard,
And the Spanish king raised “Cain.”

“Say, dis palooka’s getting fresh,”
Said Phil to his bodyguards,
“We’ll have to give dat guy de works,
Get out and get him, pards.”

To Plymouth Hoe they sailed that day,
To haul Drake o’er the coals,
But did old Frankie care two hoots?
No – he was playing bowls!

Frank straightened out his old school tie,
“The bounders, the cads” he said,
“Just wait till I’ve finished my game of bowls –
Then I’ll give them a dose of lead.”

When stumps were drawn at close of play,
And Frank had holed in three,
He saddled his noble steed Black Bess,
And then he put to sea.

Frank took his shooter from his side,
And gave one mighty blow –
The peas flew out like cannon-balls,
The Spaniards sank below.

When good Sir Frank returned that night,
The blighter landed lucky –
Queen Liz sent out her Royal Command –
“Come up and see me, ducky.”

To London Town old Frankie went,
Deck’d in his posh new suit;
And there Queen Liz gave him a “Mark”
“The Order of the Boot.”

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published two anthologies of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand and Life in a Flash. More will appear soon, including a memoir of my mother's last years. I will try and continue to blog regularly at about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
This entry was posted in family, memoires, miscellany, poems, poetry and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to From ‘It was a dark and stormy night’ to Sir Francis Drake

  1. colinandray says:

    The night was dark and stormy
    The toilet light was dim
    There was a crash, and then a splash
    My God! He’s fallen in.
    (Graffiti on public toilet wall in UK)

    Liked by 5 people

  2. davidprosser says:

    What a fantastic little ditty and quite a help to children learning history, or it would be if children did learn the history of that period.
    A tribute to the poet that your Dad remembered it. A tribute to your Dad that you have remembered it in your turn.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Norah says:

    My Dad used to recite poems too! What a wonderful tradition that was in both your family and mine. I’m not sure that my recall is as good as yours though!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. What a lovely little poem, and as David said, educational too! You have got a fantastic memory Geoff. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Excellent tribute and poem, Geoff. It was only a couple of years ago that I discovered my Dad’s ‘up the airy mountain……..’ was William Allingham’s ‘The Fairies’.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. noelleg44 says:

    What a lovely tribute, and a fine poem!


  7. Charli Mills says:

    There’s a buckaroo tradition of poetry, too. Probably comes from the trail days or entertainment after dinner on the remote ranches. I’m sure many of the cowboy poets, as they are called, didn’t have much formal education, but they were fine storytellers with a good sense of rhythm. That’s what these poems and your memories of them remind me of.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gordon759 says:

      When I am fully back on line, my router is dead and I am waiting to get it sorted, typing this in a café, I may post on my blog about the tradition of poetry in English villages. When people get together they tell tales, sing songs or recite poetry.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. willowdot21 says:

    My Dad was also always reciting strange poems!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. gordon759 says:

    As requested, ‘It was a dark and stormy night’ is in the long tradition of nonsense stories, these are common traditional tales. This is a very unusual one as it is a poem rather than a tale, Dad told me he learnt it from his father, so in telling it to your children you have become part in the long, ancient, honourable custom of passing on oral traditions. When did it begin, I don’t know.


  10. Autism Mom says:

    Love it! “The order of the boot” – my favorite line!

    Liked by 1 person

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