Poetry

The Troubles

By 1st January 2006December 9th, 2019No Comments

When I walked the streets of Belfast,
It just seems like yesterday,
I was sent there by the Government
To keep the rioters at bay!

I was only nineteen years of age
I did not have a single care,
I was just a lad, still fancy free,
I did not know why I was there.

The year was nineteen sixty nine,
When I first received the call,
The RUC, they could not cope,
They had their backs against the wall.

The people all seemed friendly,
Until the dead of night,
Then when their face you could not see,
They all came out to fight.

These nights were full of rioters
All throwing stones at me,
The days were spent patrolling,
Receiving tea and sympathy.

My first time in a riot
They burnt a Co-op lorry
And started throwing petrol-bombs,
It all seemed just a folly.

My first impressions they were strange,
Of young girls with babies of their own,
And as we passed by where they stood,
They would just say, “Fuck off home.”

They would get their babies fingers out
And spread them into two,
Then push them up, into the air
And shout, “And up yours too!”

On the streets back home in Liverpool,
If a soldier passed you by,
The girls would give a loving smile
With a twinkle in their eye.

But on the streets of Belfast,
Things were not the same,
The hate just seem to bubble up
Once we, the soldiers came.

I was just a young Welsh Guardsman,
Working with the men of the Coldstream.
I was there to get the layout,
Because The Welsh, had never been.

We were posted to the Springfield,
In the sports park of: Paisley.
A view all over Belfast,
Every morning greeted me.

Throughout the nights were riots,
But sometimes it was fun.
In the year of nineteen sixty nine
We didn’t need to use the gun.

To the Men of Harlic, I then returned
To tell them of the Irish folly,
About the tea and sympathy
And the burning of the lorry.

Then, before I knew it,
I returned to Belfast town,
Things were not much different
But a lot had been burnt down.

Nothing really happened,
Apart from the odd riot,
We thought we had it in control
As things, went rather quiet.

This tour it ended, as begun,
Four months of wasted time.
Patrolling up and down the streets
But we, the Welsh were treated fine.

Back to our homes, we then did go,
Without a thought of what was to come,
Within six months, we did return
But a war had now begun.

As I surveyed around me,
At the things that used to be,
There was one thing I did notice,
No more tea and sympathy.

The IRA. had surfaced
Like a plague upon the land.
It was said they killed the Protestants
That supported the Red Hand.

Now when they rioted
It was not just bricks they threw,
If you did not watch your back,
You’d get a bullet too.

I was in a place called Flax Street,
An old mill, I did reside.
Sleeping cold, upon the floor,
With rats for company, by my side.

Life was now much harder,
Out patrolling everyday.
Four hour on, then four hours off,
“The grave shift,” we used to say.

It was on this tour, one early morn’,
Onto the Fall’s we went,
Our orders were to make arrests,
It was the day known as Internment.

This day goes down in history,
A history, of which I’m part,
My name is not in any book,
But it felt right within my heart.

Our orders they were simple,
To get rid of all the scourge
They were killing all the people
And the innocent they purged.

They were the men of violence,
Their claim was liberty.
But they did not give a damn
What they did to you or me.

I was now just twenty years of age,
I still did not have a care.
I was just a lad, still fancy free
But I began to know why I was there.

We then returned to loved ones,
To get some rest and sleep.
No more night patrolling,
No more keeping of the peace.

Six months then passed ‘fore we returned
Back to Belfast City,
The streets were now half bombed out,
My thoughts were one of pity.

We were posted back to Belfast,
Into the Grand Hotel.
We cordoned off the city streets,
To live here now was Hell!

I was promoted to a corporal,
Posted to Intelligence.
My Sergeant he was Punchy Price
Another, Pepsi Dent.

We were based inside a chapel
The Markets to patrol.
Our guide, the Policeman Alex,
Who wouldn’t hurt a living soul.

But Alex he was hated,
By the Catholics living there,
He knew them all, everyone,
It was his knowledge they did fear.

I was sent into a pub one day,
To plant money for his snout
If it wasn’t for Punchy Price,
I would have not got out.

We both went in, in Civvies
But they all knew who we were.
The pub went a deathly quiet
All eyes gazed at us with a deathly stair.

Punchy he then drew his gun
To keep them all at bay,
As the crowd, within that pub
Threatened to take our lives away!

Onto the street we then backed out,
Slowly we withdrew.
Keeping space ‘tween us and them,
For we were just the two.

I hate to think what they’d have done,
If we were overcome,
If they had just blocked off the door
And gave us nowhere for to run.

Thank you Punchy you saved my life,
A debt I wish I could repay.
But time, it was now running out
Before he faced his judgement day!

Before too long a plan was laid,
Schemed up by the IRA,
It was they say. “A revenge attack”
For the deaths on Bloody Sunday.

Belfast City took the brunt
Of the bomb campaign,
After this day was over
My life would never be the same.

There was panic all around me
As bombs they did explode.
We were told to make to Oxford Street,
We just did as we were told.

We arrived outside the depot
Six Guardsmen, Punchy Price and me.
Inside the Pig we were driven,
By a young man of the RCT.

It was his birthday on that day,
He was only nineteen years.
He did not know it was to be his last,
When you’re young you have no fears.

We were looking for a suspect car,
All we were told that it was blue.
I asked a Bus Inspector,
If all the cars parked there he knew.

He told me that they were the staff’s,
All parked in a line.
But there was one thing, we didn’t know,
We were running out of time.

A quick search was all that we could do
To try to find that bomb,
One car was red but ten were blue,
We could not tell which was the one.

“Clear the ground,” Punchy said,
“Then have a look around.”
I then walked away from where he stood:
There was then an awful sound.

It was followed by a silence,
Of which I’ve never heard before.
Blood and smoke surrounded me,
As I lay there, on the floor.

Time seemed to take forever
To pass me by that day,
But there was not the time to even blink
Let alone to pray.

Then, as I surveyed around me,
At the devastation I could see.
The cries they started ringing out
Of pain and misery.

A young child, he lay before me.
Glass embedded in his head.
I picked him up to make him safe,
But then realised he was dead.

I placed him down and felt the sorrow
To see such beauty die
But through the shock of that bomb
I could not feel pain or cry.

Then I looked, where Punchy stood,
He was nowhere to be found.
The car that he was standing near,
Was just a hole now in the ground?

I looked beyond the crater,
And saw a body there.
Impaled upon the railings,
Ripped clothes blowing in the air.

As I looked more closely,
It was Punchy I could see.
His face you could not recognise,
His innards hanging free.

Inside the Pig, the driver lay,
His head it was devoid,
His life of just those nineteen years
Was gone and just destroyed.

Eleven people died that day,
Including part of me,
The people of the Emerald Isle
Can keep their tea and sympathy.

I was twenty, and one year of age,
I should not have had single care.
I was still a lad, but no longer free,
Oh! How I wish I was not there.

Peter Bruffell

Author Peter Bruffell

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