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Frank McNie's Poems

H.M.S. Loc. 16

They were the best of times. I was a 10-year old boy growing up in working class Scotland in the late 1950s, our lack of worldly goods was balanced by our imagination, for it seems we were blessed with more than our fair share of that.

Tree branches from the local woods in the hands of "Artisans" such as we became swords sabers, lances or claymores depending on the need. With the addition of a piece of string we could fashion a bow and arrow. A short walk over the canal bridge past the fish cannery deposited us at the very edge of Sherwood Forest, incredibly there within lay not only Robin Hood's den but also Camelot, The Holy Grail and Rob Roy's cave, to name a few, but that is another story.

In our neighborhood there were many smokestacks, beneath them lay great monoliths of bygone commerce struggling to produce goods acceptable to modern needs. One such place was Carron Iron Works, once famous for producing cannon for the Duke of Wellington; it was now reduced to making cast iron baths. A by-product of the casting process was little pieces of cast iron; these were like nuggets of gold to us. Some (the perfect star shaped ones) we used for a game of pick-up, the smaller round shaped pieces made the best sling shot known to man. At the entrance to the works behind a big plate glass window you could see a fine display of Carronade Cannon which seemed to suggest an eagerness to return to the glory days. We ogled that display often for it was like rocket fuel for our imagination.

Camelon, a suburb of Falkirk, where I was raised, was right in the path of the Forth and Clyde Canal. At the top of our street just past the Juniors Football Club across from the "Hole in the Wall Pub" there was one of the many locks along its way. Loc. 16 was manned by Big Jock. On a good day Jock would bribe us with sweets to help him turn the big iron handle that operated the sluice. On a bad day, if Jock saw us playing on his precious loc, he would chase us screaming all kinds of unprintable obscenities. Sometimes we thought Jock's sole purpose in life was to prevent us from creating British Naval history onů H.M.S. Loc. 16. 

She was the finest ship there's ever been,
H.M.S Loc 16.
The scourge of the seven seas,
harr harr me mateys on your knees.

To a man her crew was bold,
as we scoured the sea for Spanish gold.
Man the mainsail tie the jib, 
each man wears his gunner's bib.

Gunner's crew makes report,
twelve cannon ready aft and port.
Carronade blazing, a swift attack,
no chance for the enemy to fire back.

Grappling hooks and bloody saber,
there'll be gold reward for this day's labour.
Stuffed to the gunoles with gold relieve,
head S.S. West for shore leave.
In the morning we'll be in the Tropics sunning.




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