NEWTOWN "The Parish of St Pauls"
Written by Tommy Walsh
Newtown: the parish of St Paul's, the first poem on this page was the inspiration behind the Newtown project. It was recorded by Tommy Walsh and transcribed with his kind permission by Mary Sullivan in 1988. The poem had its first public reading at a Poems and Pints evening at St Peters Church Hall in September 1988. Since then it has been recited at various events all over the city, including the annual St Fagan’s May Fair in May 2000. The words have also been put to music by local singer/ songwriter Frank Hennessy and is featured in the Hennesseys' latest album.
NEWTOWN "The Parish of St Pauls"
They called it Little Ireland,The Wearing of the Green"
All good friends and neighbours, the like you’ve never seen
None of us were wealthy; the riches passed us by
Our policy was not to take, but to give, or just to try
That was the spirit of Newtown, I don’t mean whiskey or gin
But to fight against adversity and have the will to win
And win they did, against all odds, those people of St. Pauls
Because as the old folk used to say "If God don’t send he calls."
Rosemary Street and Ellen, North William Street and Tyndall,
Roland Street, and Pendoylan, now my adrenalin starts to tingle
Those six streets were Newtown, surrounded by railways and walls
And here are some of my remembers of the Parish of St. Pauls.
St. Pauls Church in Tyndall Street where we all went to pray
Hymn singing so devoutly with the organist Mary O’Shea
Everyone loved Miss Mary, she was held in high esteem
As the children gathered around her you’d think she was the Queen
The Bob Tail was our playground, the canal our Empire Pool
Our Lido was the Feeder, where we went swimming after school
I remember the bookies on the corner, where we had our little flutter
And the cries of Span! and Knuckle Down! as we played marbles in the gutter.
A game of Gobs; or kick the tin; picking winkles down the Leys
Our pleasures were few and far between, but they were happy, happy days
I remember too the threepenny Hops, our very own Pavlova
The girls done up in their Toni perms looking for the Dance Floor Casanova
The boys all in their Sunday best, their hair brushed to a sheen
And with hair oil so expensive they just used margarine.
Then there were our Rugby Teams, Crusaders and St. Pauls
And the arguments and discussions over lineouts and on Mauls
The Inquest on the Saturday match, what went wrong and why
And what they called the referee when he disallowed our try
I listened to those arguments around the old Welsh walls
And vowed that after leaving school I’d play Rugby for St. Pauls.
What about the game of "Pitch and Toss," two gambling schools at least
With Larboes on the lookout for the coppers and the Priest.
Some worked to a system, which they said never fails, but
is a youngster, to my mind, it just meant Heads or Tails.
Who could forget the corner shops, with Aunty Emm in the middle
At Carlson’s and Duffy’s you served yourself, and anything else you could fiddle
Ellen Healy’s and Memmie Daley’s were the Tesco’s of our day
Where the weekly groceries were on the book till Dada got his pay
Those corner shops were our life blood, whichever way you look -
Our Access card the kiss of life to those who were on the book
I am very often reminded about all our Public Houses
Where we had better entertainment than any Liverpool Scousers
We had Master Mind and quizzes before they came on Telly
Every Saturday night in the Crichton Arms run by Billy Fitz and Nellie
And How about the Good Old Duke once kept by Peerless Jim
Then we had the "OCKERS," Tommy Burns and Tim
Dai Kelleher only lived next door, not far for him to roam -
But at Stop Tap on a Saturday night, he’d have a taxi home.
The unloading of the Spud boats in the now defunct West Dock
The Dockers; swearing, sweating blood in a race to beat the clock
The women on the landing stage, stitching weaving, stacking
And Doty O’Loughlin watching out, to ensure there was no slacking
No room for skivers on this job, those Dockers had their pride
The Captain’s promised a bonus, if they get him out next tide
Their job complete the ship has gone away to catch the tide -
The Dockers to the West Dock bar to get a wet inside
I have very often heard it said, a rumour I shouldn’t repeat
That when the Pub was busy the Dock water went down two feet.
How about the "Irish Wakes" all good clean fun and laughter
They sometimes had the funeral first and held the wakes just after
It was best to have it that way the old folks always said
For the singing and the dancing was enough to wake the dead
No one was ever turned away, it was an ever open door
Come in me boy and sing us a verse of "The Hat Me Father Wore"
Or "Danny Boy," or "Mother Macree," or about "Killarney’s Lake"
And I’ll tell you of the tricks they played at Steve O’Donnell’s wake
When Rafferty and Murphy, with no respect for the dead
Took the corpse and put it into Spinster Riley’s bed
So just come in and have a tot or a little pinch of snuff
Push Murphy under the table there - I think he’s had enough
I remember the mystery writings on the bridge, which we crossed to go to school
Such as Mary C loves Johnny D and Josie M’s a fool
Some writings were real nasty and friends were torn apart
With Kitty J hates Billy M, and the drawing of a broken heart
Dan Murphy said "It’s the Leprechauns who write upon the walls
They’re out to cause some trouble," he said, "between St David’s and St Paul’s
"Not the Catholic Leprechauns of course, it’s the Protestants" he said
"They creep out on the bridge at night when you’re asleep in bed"
Those writings caused many a tear, of that I have no doubt
Nobody knew who the culprit was - it was always signed: Find Out!
The characters and nicknames are remembered to this day
Who could forget Liz Ripper, if they ever passed her way
Or Butcher O’Brien and Kyker, Mush Clements or Bosheen
Golly Eyes, Bratcho, Pablo and Tagneen,
Tommy Uko and Our Lord, Dutchy Reagan and the Troupe,
Dibby Doora and Consta our very own Disco Group
Jumbo and the Little Flower, Towta Daley and The Skinner,
John O’Shea the Tipster - who never tipped a winner,
Dan the Liar and Oxo, Stagger Juice and his dog
And Rafferty and McKeown, who came over from the Bog.
Then there was little Danny Reardon and his brother Nick the Grip
When asked, "where’s the urinal mate?" he thought it was ship
"How many funnels has it got," said Dan, "if it’s got two it’s in the Queen’s Dock
But you’ll have to hurry up," said Nick, "it went out at 3 o’clock."
Remember Billy Navo? and his elder brother Pats,
when Navo let his Pigeons out, his neighbours had no cats.
What a character that Navo was, Newtown’s Davy Crockett
It was said that he could peel, and slice, anOrange in his pocket.
The memories still remain of those far off happy days
A good community now split up and all gone different ways
The M’cCarthys and O’Briens, the Murphys and A’Hearne’s
O’Sullivans and Dwyers, O’Loughlins and the Burns
The Collins’s and the Walsh’s, O’Shanahans and the Bradys
The Flynns, the Reagans and the Doyles, the Careys and O’Gradys
The Whelans and the Barrys, O’Keefe, O’Shea and Quinn,
Sestanovitch and Nikovic - Sestanovitch and Nikovic !!! -
I don’t know how they got in!
We had a surplus of O’Briens and quite a few O’Learys
So we gave some to St. Peters, and in Canton, to St Mary’s
We also sent McCarthys to St. Albans on the Moor
And taught them the art of Rugby - their team was very poor
Then we sent out Missionaries to build a parish called St. Jo’s
And gave them talks on Rugby, just to keep them on their toes.
Our Mission was successful, beyond our wildest dreams
Now they have a Church, a School and four good Rugby teams
So raise your glasses, I’ll give you a toast to those Newtown Men of Vision
Who did so much for others and thus fulfilled their Mission.
A gentle shake, a whisper, my grandchildren are gathered near
They’ve been listening to my ramblings and I wipe away a tear
Wake up Grampy! you’ve been dreaming, and talking in your sleep
About a place called Newtown, and you’ve had a little weep.
You’ve laughed aloud and shouted and made a lot noise
And sang a song that sounded like: "We are the Newtown Boys."
So Grampy, please, when you have time and finished all your calls
Will you tell us about Newtown and the Parish of St. Pauls.
Indeed I will, I’ll tell them all of our laughter and our joy
So that when I’m gone they’ll be proud to say
"My Gramps was a Newtown Boy"
Now Newtown’s gone, demolished, to me a sinful pity
A part of Cardiff gone for good - We were a town within a City
But you won’t find any Epitaph, or a plaque set in the Walls
To say that this was Newtown, The Parish of St. Paul’s
But remember this – there must be a place up there
without any railways or walls, where the people of Newtown
meet up again to reform the parish of St. Paul’s