Coaster’s Song

From the nineteenth century, right into the second half of the twentieth, hundreds  ships carried coal from North East England down the East coast of England to the southern ports. During World War II they fed the armaments factories and kept fires in domestic hearths in London and the South East. The men who sailed on the colliers were known as “The Coal-Scuttle Brigade” and during the war they suffered terrible losses in the North Sea. This little poem is about counting the lighthouses and lightships from just south of the Humber to the mouth of the Tyne. It is a simple thing, but it is all about isolation, the end of a journey, and the promise of home.

Coasters’ song

First the Dudgeon, then the Spurn,
Flamborough Head is next in turn,
Filey Brig as you pass by
Whitby Light bears northerly.
Huntley Cliff the great highland
Is five and twenty from Sunderland;
Our Old Man says, if wind holds right,
With luck we’ll be in Shields tonight.

Posted by Chris Routledge

2 thoughts on “Coaster’s Song”

    1. You have a point about Night Mail. I have no idea how old this is–pre-WW II at least–or whether there is more of it, but there is something of the shipping forecast about it too. Incidentally, for Night Mail fans there is a similar film made of The Elizabethan express train which ran non-stop from London to Edinburgh. The poetry isn’t as good (not by a long way) but the film of the locomotive at speed is superb. Watch some of it here:

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